Jonathon Majors and Glen Powell provide their star power to DJ Dillard’s poetic, powerful action-drama Devotion. New to 4K UHD from Paramount Home Video.
In a decade or so people are going to look back and realize they missed the boat on Devotion. The wartime drama directed by JD Dillard based on the best-selling non-fiction book of the same name is adroit in every respect.
In early 1950 Lieutenant Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) is transferred to the Naval Base in Rhode Island. A man who missed the “big show” by a month. Hudner like most Naval Fighter Pilots post-WW2 is looking for another arena to prove himself. Fellow Naval Aviator Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) does not have that problem. The first Black Naval Fighter Pilot, Brown has had to prove himself over and over and over again. As these two men are assigned as wingmen a relationship is formed. One that will take them to the coasts of Europe to partying with Liz Taylor (yes, THE Liz Taylor) and to the 39th Parallel during the beginning of the Korean War.
What makes Dillard’s movie so effective is that though a war film it is first and foremost a human drama about the struggles of everyday life. Life for a man, Ensign Jesse Brown, who pushed against a ceiling many, if not most, did not think he could A.) push past or B.) want him to get past. Dillard does not make this film exclusively about traumatic events. Rather Devotion shows Brown, his wife and child, and his fellow pilots at their best, their funniest, at their most doubtful, and eventually as a group who go to war.
Jonathan Majors continues to prove why he isn’t just one of the best working actors but a Super Star in the making – if not made. Devotion gives Majors center stage. The man does not disappoint. As Ensign Jesse Brown, Majors gives the role the complexity, heart, and charisma no other actor could have given the role. Majors is able to deftly share the screen with co-Star Powell – no slouch himself, to create an effective relationship that feels like it goes beyond mere co-workers or friends. The Actor is also able to shift into that Star-like magnetism. Showing why films will and are being built around him, that ineffable Star quality coupled with the ability to summon those moments that go beyond performance and transcend into the reality of a moment. Both qualities so few actors possess let alone Super Stars – Majors in Devotion proves he has the ability to do both.
One would think that this is not a thrilling war film but much of what makes this film count when the group descends into War is that it’s properly set the stage. Dillard and screenwriters Jake Crane and Jonathan A Stewart have in many ways concocted a classically plotted film that builds up to the action so that it matters. Because character matters so much in the first two-thirds of the film that when they do unleash the war it is as effective as any action or wartime film of recent memory.
Dillard working with ace Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt find beautiful compositions and visuals to give Devotion in its action set pieces the heft/impact of an R-Rated film without being one. But as important Dillard and Messerschmidt’s subtle and profound composition and staging of the dramatic scenes. Equally impressive is Dillard’s work with Editor Billy Fox – as they put performance and geography first much to the benefit of the film. A special note of Composer Chanda Dancy’s rousing and beautiful score that pairs perfectly with the film Dillard and company has put together.
Devotion is an emotional, thrilling, and dramatic film. One that takes a little-known but very important figure in history, the first Black Naval Fighter Pilot Ensign Jesse Brown, and gives him the spotlight he deserves.
It’s very early in 2023, I know, but Devotion’s 4K UHD encoded with Dolby Vision may be one of the best transfers in recent memory. Additionally, it will be in contention with one of the best of the year. The image was captured in 8K using the RED Komodo using Panavision Lenses and then prepared in 4K for release in theaters. Essentially, the theatrical image is essentially the same one that was presented in theaters. The result is a luminous image that’s color spectrum is as deep and wide as one would hope for on all current releases. From beginning to end the UHD is reference quality in every respect. There is nothing that the transfer cannot handle. From the low-lit interiors of Naval Housing or Situation Rooms on Air Craft Carries to the blown-out sunny vistas of the Rhode Island coast the work here remains consistent and free of any sort of ghosting or artifacting. Anyone looking for their new reference Demo Disc to show the beauty that can be achieved with real 4K UHD – look no further.
A special mention must be made of the Atmos encoded soundtrack included here. Again, like the transfer, it is reference quality. Not because of the amazing sound design during the battle sequences but also during the dramatic scenes. There is a unifying, consistent, and active sound field at work that represents the best of all audio levels – from the peaks to the low-end bombast. One need only watch the first flying sequence between Brown and Hudner as the beautiful score by Chanda Dancy kicks in to understand how effective the soundtrack is when using all 7.2 channels. Again, anyone looking for a disc to demo out just how great Atmos can be, look no further than here.
They include the following;
- The Aviation of a Forgotten War
- The Legacy of Jesse Brown
The Aviation of a Forgotten War (11:17) – in this all-too-brief making-of featurette, the cast and crew discuss the challenges faced in adapting, and mounting Devotion. Some of the details include how the original book was written by Adam Makos, Glen Powell’s chasing and option of the book, JD Dillard’s attachment – his father was a Naval Aviator and Blue Angel pilot, the use of real airplanes and the helicopter – and the rarity of them, how they approached shooting the aerial footage and how it was accomplished, Jonathan Major’s flight training for the shoot, and more.
The Legacy of Jesse Brown (12:03) – in this featurette the filmmakers discuss the importance of Jesse Brown’s story and place in history. Some of the details include the challenges Brown faced to become the first Black Naval Fighter Pilot, the adversity he faced after becoming a Naval Fighter Pilot, the importance of showing Brown as a fully realized character with wants, needs, passions, happiness, the letters between his wife during his leave, Brown’s relationship with Hudner, the reason why he was not buried in Arlington Cemetery and Hudner’s struggle to bring his remains back, and much more.
The Final Thought
Devotion is a special film. Paramount has done it justice by giving it a beautiful 4K UHD with reference quality picture and sound. Highest Possible Recommendations!!!