FlyPast’s Jamie Ewan reviews one of the most anticipated war films of recent years – Devotion
It is easy to say that the double kick of reflection and context is all we need to return, happily, to our lives – and appreciate them for what they are. Devotion fits that bill. Based on the quite remarkable book of the same title by noted historian and author Adam Makos, Devotion effectively and admirably portrays the epic early 1950s tale of United States Naval aviators ENS Jesse Brown, the first the first African American aviator to complete the service’s basic flight training programme, and LTJG Tom Hudner, as the pair form an unlikely friendship while flying Bearcats and F4U Corsairs with the ‘Fightin’ Thirty-Two’ under the then-still persistent shadow of discrimination and the growing clouds of conflict in Korea - both of which put their training and relationship to the test.
While this may not be the Korean War epic many expected, this story of heroism, courage, friendship, brotherhood, love and sacrifice, is an eye-opening and hard-hitting account of a very different and questionable time in the history of the United States as Devotion touches on crucial themes, not only about war, but loyalty, unthinkable choices, promises, selflessness, patience, culture and above all, racism. Many of these remain relevant to this day.
There is always a curiosity when a new film is released as to how faithfully it will live up to the epithet “based on a true story”. In the case of Devotion, apart from the few minor ‘Hollywood needed’ aspects, it does just that as it takes you into the heart and mind of Jesse as he wrestles to find the right balance between his family and duty, while facing his own challenges and fighting demons that have followed him all the way through life. With truly stunning cinematography and CGI taking you into the cockpits of VF-32 both during peace and the hell of war throughout, there are times when it does not seem like much is happening at all - then you realise the smaller details fundamental to Jesse’s own devotion to his family and squadron mates and the country he chose to defend, despite having to endure what the latter threw at him. When Jesse died, he was just 24 years old. While watching his heart wrenching final descent and what it did to those devoted to him as Hudner dived after him, one question came to mind… how far would you go to save a friend?