Plot: What’s it about?
Films about the first “insert whatever you like here” are often very inspirational. There had to be someone to do…whatever…first. Be it the first man in space, the first black baseball player, Navy diver or in this case – the first black Navy pilot. A friend of my family was a Navy pilot (he was a classmate of my Dad’s at the United States Naval Academy) and went onto become a commercial air pilot. We were talking one time and I asked how many times he went up and he’d remarked “I had 800 takeoffs…and 800 landings.” It occurred to me that was certainly an instance of where those numbers add up. 800 takeoffs and 799 landings would be a bad thing, no? But as we progressed, there was a need for more pilots and now we’ve got the story of Jesse Brown, the first Navy pilot. Ready for takeoff?
Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) is a cautious person who tends to keep to himself. Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) is the new guy in his unit and he’s assigned to be Jesse’s wingman. They’re a good pair with Jesse being determined and stoic while Tom is laid-back, yet focused. They become friends which suits Jesse’s wife, Daisy (Christina Jackson) just fine. We see the inevitable trials that Jesse has to overcome, working twice as hard to prove his worth and the occasional bout with racism. We see some of his struggles with a plane that’s unfamiliar to him, making it more difficult to land. Finally, we see the dangerous mission that he and Tom are sent on. Simply put, this is the story of Jesse Brown.
There’s not really a “Rudy” vibe here, but I have to admit that the story is pretty inspirational. I’d never heard of Jesse Brown and I’m willing to bet that unless you’re “in the know”, most others haven’t either. For that reason, perhaps alone, I think this is a great film to showcase his story. The film also manages to avoid some of the pratfalls associated with a movie like this. Yes, there are some genuinely heartfelt moments, but by and large this serves as a biopic of the titular character. Majors is great in the role and Glen Powell might want to watch himself as this is his second movie that he’s starred as a Navy fighter pilot (the other being Top Gun: Maverick).
Video: How’s it look?
Though they share a star and we see plenty of planes in the sky, I assure you this isn’t Top Gun: Maverick! That one set the bar (as did its predecessor) for this genre of movie, but I won’t sell the movie short – it does deliver with some of the visuals. And the film is shown in a rather obscure aspect ratio of 2.20:1. I kind of prefer it, actually. It’s not too narrow or too wide. At any rate, we know what to expect – accurate flesh tones, detail, HDR for some help with the contrast and black levels and so on. I sound like a broken record saying this, but these movies all look so good it’s really hard to assign scores to them. At any rate, either way you go – the Blu-ray or the 4K will certainly deliver the goods.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Here is where I felt there was an opportunity missed. A movie like this could certainly benefit from a Dolby Atmos mix, but alas…we don’t get it. Included is a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that’s sure to please. Vocals are spot on, but it’s some of the shots in the air that really make me stand up and take notice. Again, you won’t hear the “whoosh” of jets flying by at supersonic speeds, but for what it is – I was more than satisfied.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- The Aviation of a Forgotten War – We take a deep dive into the world of 1950s U.S. Naval aviation and experience the epic aerial action brought to life in Devotion. Meet the actors in real planes used during the Korean War in this incredible behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film.
- The Legacy of Jesse Brown – The extraordinary life of Jesse Brown is profiled, the first African American Naval Aviator, and explore his personal journey during the Korean War. Hear from the cast and crew as they discuss Jesse’s unique and complex story.
The Bottom Line
Devotion had my curiosity piqued and I was excited to give it a go. It’s good. It’s not great. I felt there were a few missed opportunities, but on the whole it does meet the qualifications of “inspirational movie.” Paramount’s disc is a bit lacking on the supplements, but the movie looks and sounds good.