Devotion movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Devotion movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (1)

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How we define an activist is at the heart of director J.D. Dillard’s “Devotion.” Adapted from Adam Makos’ book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice, Dillard's latestfilm tells a civil rights story centered on Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), a groundbreaking Black naval pilot and Korean War hero. But Brown isn’t your prototypical changemaker, and “Devotion” isn’t your usual anti-racism film.

Though it also concerns the friendship formed by Brown and white wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell, also an executive producer on the picture), the film also subverts previous cinematic pairings between Black folks and white people during segregation: “Green Book,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Defiant Ones,” which are steeped in stereotypes and proliferated with magical Negros who have the power to end racism if only their white counterpart could see their humanity. These films, of course, posit the prejudiced white person as a kind of hero, while othering the person it claims to care about. “Devotion” walks the tightropes between discord and harmony, hard lessons and heroic triumphs, and full-throated allyship and useless white guilt with aplomb.


Dillard's film opens in 1948 with Hudner’s arrival at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida. He enters a cacophonous men’s locker room populated by wrathful slurs. These vulgar barbs are not emanating from a mob. They’re coming from one man: Brown. Hudner never sees Brown shouting at himself, as the tears this Black man sheds aren’t for Hudner (though Dillard and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt do show us those tears through an arresting fourth-wall-breaking mirror shot). The calm, naive, all-American Hudner casts a different shadow from the quiet, reclusive, no-nonsense Brown. In terms of temperament, they shouldn’t be friends. Screenwriters Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart don’t try to force the issue either, which gives “Devotion” uncommon freedom. Instead, this thrilling, pulsating journey is more concerned with the two men forming a bond through shared respect rather than a fantastical misunderstanding of the place and time.

Brown is an aviator with so many unseen wounds; The obscenities he yells at himself spring from a little book where he keeps every slur that’s ever been hurled in his direction. One of the Navy’s first African American aviators, Brown experienced bodily harm and several attempts on his life from his segregationist “comrades” in his early career. We don’t see the violence that Brown endured. Dillard is too smart for such low-hanging fruit. We instead witness the repercussions on Brown’s psyche through Majors’ adept physical performance, a tight bundle of a swaggering gait belying the weight on his broad shoulders and tension wrapped around his face.

“Devotion” chronicles the steady progression Hudner makes toward understanding Brown without infantilizing this proud pilot. Brown, in turn, slowly brings Hudner into his orbit and we’re introduced to Brown’s daughter Pamela and his devoted wife Daisy (Christina Jackson). Dillard juxtaposes this home life—where Brown can leave the pressures and racism, where his entire frame and visage lightens with joy—with the difficult landscape of being the only Black man in a sea of white naval aviators. Jackson is a burst of jubilant air as Daisy, offering the picture some much-needed levity and grace. And in many ways, the bond shared by Daisy and Jesse, more so than desegregation or war, provides the picture with a palpable heartbeat.


But conflict does come: The Korean War sends Brown and Hudner and their squadron to a carrier bound for the Mediterranean Sea. Their deployment requires the pilots to train on the F4U Corsair, an aircraft that worries Brown. The drilling on these planes becomes a tad repetitive mostly because the difficulties, even though Brown feels them, can be too technical for a general audience goer (though I’m sure aviation nuts will love these details).

The aerial dogfights in “Devotion” are simply thrilling. Many people will immediately compare this Korean War flick to “Top Gun: Maverick,” but “Devotion” stands on its own. It’s an immersive experience where the roar within the co*ckpit thrills; the cinematography by Messerschmidt (“Mank”) firmly establishes us in the dimensions of the skirmishes; the editing by Billy Fox (“Dolemite is My Name”) is tightly wound to gripping ends.

For Dillard, Brown’s fight against racism on the ground continues in the sky, where the pilot finds his greatest freedom. In this picture, there is no visible physical violence against Black folks as a means for civil rights or to be seen as human by Hudner. Brown’s existence is his protest. His plane is his sit-in. A two-and-a-half-hour film that literally flies by, “Devotion” is a graduation of sorts by Dillard, from his compact genre film canvas to a spectacular large-scale onslaught. Dillard manages to balance the several concerns of anti-racism movies with the heroism of Brown without succumbing to maudlin, craven techniques. Even toward the aching end, “Devotion” manages a perfect landing.

Only in theaters today, November 23rd.

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Film Credits

Devotion movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (9)

Devotion (2022)

Rated PG-13for strong language, some war action/violence, and smoking.

138 minutes


Jonathan Majorsas Jesse Brown

Glen Powellas Thomas J. Hudner Jr.

Christina Jacksonas Daisy Brown

Thomas Sadoskias Dick Cevoli

Joe Jonasas Marty Goode

Joseph Crossas Charlie Ward

Daren Kagasoffas Bill Koenig

Serinda Swanas Elizabeth Taylor

Nick Hargroveas Carol Mohring


  • J.D. Dillard

Writer (based on the book by)

  • Adam Makos


  • Jake Crane
  • Jonathan Stewart


  • Erik Messerschmidt


  • Billy Fox


  • Chanda Dancy

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Devotion movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Devotion movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert? ›

These films, of course, posit the prejudiced white person as a kind of hero, while othering the person it claims to care about. “Devotion

Devotion is a 2022 American biographical war film based on the 2015 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos, which tells the comradeship between naval officers Jesse L. Brown and Tom Hudner during the Korean War. › wiki › Devotion_(2022_film)
walks the tightropes between discord and harmony, hard lessons and heroic triumphs, and full-throated allyship and useless white guilt with aplomb.

What is the message of Devotion movie? ›

This movie is about war and love. It is about struggle and victory. And above all else, it is above racism and brotherhood. And the latter doesn't only come from same coloured brothers, but from two wingmans that are black and white.

What happens in the Devotion movie in 2022? ›

A pair of U.S. Navy fighter pilots risk their lives during the Korean War and become some of the Navy's most celebrated wingmen.

What is the movie Devotion all about? ›

What was Roger Ebert's last review? ›

The last review by Ebert published during his lifetime was for the film The Host, which was published on March 27, 2013. The last review Ebert wrote was for To the Wonder, which he gave 3.5 out of 4 stars in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times. It was posthumously published on April 6, 2013.

What is the point of Devotion? ›

It infuses life with love, connection, and meaning. Of course, we need to make sure that the object of our devotion is worthy. When we practice devotion to our higher power, we're acknowledging the divinity in ourselves, others, and the sacredness of life.

What is the story behind Devotion? ›

Devotion is based on the true story of the U.S. Navy's first Black pilot, Jesse Brown, and his wingman, Tom Hudner. The film closely follows their experiences during the Korean War, including Jesse's tragic death and Tom's efforts to save him.

What happened at the end of Devotion? ›

Hudner sees that Brown is alive but trapped in his co*ckpit and deliberately crashes his own plane in the clearing in order to aid Brown. Though he puts out an engine fire, Hudner is unable to extract the wounded Brown from the wreckage, and Brown dies shortly after a Marine Sikorsky helicopter arrives to assist him.

Is Devotion a happy ending? ›

This proves true in Devotion's devastating ending, when Hudner intentionally crashes his plane to try and save Brown. Tragically, Hudner is unable to help Brown escape from his aircraft and eventually has to leave the site.

Why was Devotion a flop? ›

Devotion was a colossal failure because it was produced on a budget of $90 million and Sony spent $40 million on Prints and Ads. The studio incurred additional costs including $3 million in residuals, $9 million in video costs, and $16.2 million in interest and overhead.

Is Devotion worth watching? ›

Devotion may not break the mould for war or aviation films. Still, it is a well-directed and entertaining film that is perhaps a tad too long but elevated by superb performances from Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell. Fresh score.

Is Devotion a faith based movie? ›

The movie contains some overt Christian content, including prayer and a Christian character who wears a cross. Despite this, DEVOTION could have used more Christian faith since the true story is based on two men of great faith.

Is Devotion a true story on Wikipedia? ›

The 2022 film, Devotion, is based on his 2015 book of the same title, which recounts the true story of a friendship between two U.S. Navy pilots in the Korean War.

What were Roger Ebert's final words? ›

Sometime ago, I heard that Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, talked about Roger's last words. He died of cancer in 2013. “Life is but a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Why was Roger Ebert so good? ›

However, it was Roger who always had compelling arguments. Using a very simple, yet refined, writing style he turned film journalism into art. You loved how he wrote, and even when you didn't agree with him, you kept on reading or watching his show. Roger represented the idea that anybody could speak about film.

Who did Roger Ebert marry? ›

Chaz Ebert (born Charlie Hammel; October 15, 1952) is an American businesswoman. She is best known as the wife and widow of film critic Roger Ebert, having been married to him from 1992 until his death in 2013.

What is the idea of Devotion? ›

Devotion is the loving attitude towards God. Of course many can direct that towards the worldly matters like family, community, nation, etc. also. However in reality it's to be for God.

What spread the message of Devotion to God? ›

Bhakti saints spread the message of devotion and dedication to God. They strengthened the concept of social equality and challenged orthodox Brahmanic traditions.

How accurate was the movie Devotion? ›

As stated before, Devotion hews fairly close to the real-life events, with two exceptions. While Brown's funeral was the first time Daisy and Hudner met, a scene in the film features them having a meeting when Hudner drives Brown home.

Does Devotion movie have a sad ending? ›

This proves true in Devotion's devastating ending, when Hudner intentionally crashes his plane to try and save Brown. Tragically, Hudner is unable to help Brown escape from his aircraft and eventually has to leave the site.

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