Glen Powell takes to the skies for the second time in a matter of months. The Top Gun: Maverick standout stars alongside Jonathan Majors (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) in Devotion, a biographical picture that chronicles the aviation life of Jesse Brown (Majors) during the Korean War. While it does not possess the emphatic energy that beats throughout Top Gun's 131 minutes, Devotion flies on its own thanks to its historical roots, strong chemistry between its leading men, and genuine sense of suspense during some of the most understated aspects of aerial combat.
Devotion rests on the shoulders of Powell and Majors, and as evident by recent Men's Health photoshoots, the latter has no problem holding that weight. That said, Powell particularly shines as the primary lead. The 34-year-old actor leaps from supporting to starring with ease, as his pivot from brash bad-boy Lieutenant Jake "Hangman" Seresin in Top Gun to empathetic locker room leader Tom Hudner in this picture is without any growing pains. Often in cinema, audiences see the actor first and the character second. After roughly five minutes with Hudner, any remnants of Powell's previous roles are absent, as it becomes genuinely hard to believe that Powell portrayed two polar opposite pilots by the time Devotion's credits roll.
Majors is quickly becoming a bonafide A-Lister, and this performance only emphasizes that. He brings nuance to Jesse Brown, as certain sides of the role only show themselves depending on who he is around. He is mistrusting with his peers yet persistent in his team's mission. He is overwhelmed with nerves in private but confidently calm in public. On the surface, Brown is an easy-to-root-for protagonist, but these layers are what makes him both compelling and three-dimensional. His relationship with Hudner and how it evolves over the film's three acts is the lifeblood of Devotion, and some of their exchanged dialogue will leave no dry eyes in the theater.
Where Devotion struggles is in its lack of aforementioned energy, which is largely in part due to the supporting cast. Joe Jonas does a fine job as Marty Goode, avoiding the usual obstacle that musicians face in movies of having a forced spotlight or projecting as an artist first and their character second. While Jonas doesn't overstep, he doesn't exactly stand out either. Unlike other war films that boast a lively supporting roster, Devotion's ensemble feels more like one large character than any individual identity. Because of that, any time Powell or Majors are off-screen, the film suffers an almost immediate stall in its pacing.
Fortunately for that pacing, Devotion comes through with a strong second half full of aerial adventures. Like past war movies, Devotion gives itself time to breathe in its first two acts in an effort to build to the big mission, and that particular mission is quite the breathtaking spectacle. Director J.D. Dillard establishes a number of variables early on that make for edge-of-seat action come the grand finale, and consequently shine a light on just how many things need to be perfect in order for an operation to succeed completely.
As former WWE Chairman Vince McMahon used to profess, audiences only remember the finish, and Devotion brings it home in an engaging and emotional way. Aside from a brief moment that fails the unwritten rule of Chekhov's gun, Devotion's third act does justice to Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner's story. The cinematography alone warrants the big screen experience, but the film's leading performances are an appreciated icing on the cake.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Devotion hits theaters on Wednesday, November 23rd.0comments