After Top Gun: Maverick’s success, big things were expected from the JD Dillard-helmed Devotion. The war drama promised an emotional retelling of a camaraderie that transcended race in times when doing it was unthinkable. Glen Powell (who also played the pivotal role of “Hangman” in Maverick) and Jonathan Majors provided the requisite star power. But unfortunately, the film turned out to be a dud at the box office. The poor numbers are not very well explained since the audience polls for the film were very positive.
However so, it did quite well in terms of critical reception. Powell’s passion for bringing this story to the screen reflects in how well the rich themes are integrated into a compelling narrative. Devotion’s ending respects the real-life events that transpired on the battlefield that fated day. We are here to break down the most important moments of the film and probe them to establish clarity as to what happened and why, and how it can add meaning to our lives. Enjoy this ending explainer of the new war film Devotion, now available to watch on Paramount+.
What did Brown’s monologues in the mirror mean for the viewer?
Jonathan Majors was quite emphatic in those scenes where Brown is alone with himself and berates himself in front of the mirror. It was almost like the breaking of the fourth wall and meant a little more than just an exercise to prepare himself mentally for the day. It is yet not confirmed if the real-life Jesse Brown did it or not, but Dillard uses it as a powerful narrative tool. Everything that Majors says is a repetition of what Brown endured in those days. The element of universality is of course, something that elevates the speech and makes it an even more impactful creative choice.
This choice came almost unexpectedly, as most of the film is a straightforward biopic. But perhaps it was carved out by Dillard to jar the viewers with the hard, uncomfortable truths of the time that might not have made it to the screen ideally. Brown never explains whether this is an act of catharsis or simply a reminder of how far he’s come. Still, it’s a powerful reminder for the audience of how much overt racism and disdain Brown faced during his military career.
Is Devotion based on a true story?
Yes, Deoviton is indeed based on a true story. As far-fetched and unthinkable as it sounds, Brown and Hudner were real people. The movie’s story is based on Adam Makos’ 2015 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice. JD Dillard, who also directs the film, mentioned how he felt a personal connection to the source material and the idea of showcasing the life of a naval aviator on screen. His own father served his country in a similar fashion to Jesse Brown. It is perhaps because of this connection that Devotion’s DNA of friendship, race, and isolation is brought to life so beautifully.
Brown was the first African-American aviator to complete the U.S. Navy’s basic flight training program, was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was the first African-American naval officer killed in the Korean War. Hudner received the Medal of Honor for risking his own life and trying to save that of Brown, even when little hope was left.
How is the friendship between Hudner and Brown portrayed?
Since the bond between the two men is what inspired the making of the film, Dillard takes special note of how he portrays the manifestation of friendship. Brown and Hudner always had to wither the storm of slurs and inappropriate comments from other officers. The latter was always protective of the former but did not fully understand the full extent of what Brown faced until he confronted Hudner about the report. The most striking symbol of their undying love for each other was when Hudner deliberately crashed his plane in order to save Brown, something that we saw when maverick wanted to save Rooster in Topgun.
Putting the skin in the game is important, and when Hudner says he cannot do more than write the supportive truth for Brown, the man replies, “just be my wingman”! It is seemingly a plan statement but has deep connotations. It denotes having a physical presence in Brown’s life and yearning to make a difference through actions. The more we could see that, the clearer it would become that words actually mean something and aren’t just said for the sake of it.
Hudner showed what it meant by disobeying orders and trying to save his friend’s life. Powell did something very similar in Topgun as well. When Hangman does not get the clearance to fly and save Maverick and Rooster’s lives, he takes it upon himself to rush and make an effort. It did bring a tangible result when he is able to strike down the enemy aircraft when it looked like he would kill the Americans.
Why did Hudner report Brown’s disobedience?
This was perhaps the most fascinating moment in Devotion and a real head-scratcher for many viewers. Brown and Hudner had developed a fierce friendship by that point in the film. They defied all odds to show exemplary brotherhood and “devotion” toward each other. But there are two key reasons why this happened. Firstly, we saw Hudner as a textbook officer who did not stray too much from the rulebook. Everything had to be done in that order, and that is what made him such a hardened officer. Irreepsive of what happens as a consequence, Hudner saw no reason to lie whatsoever. It perhaps also went on to show his lack of maturity and understanding of Brown’s predicament.
A slap on my wrist is not the same as a slap on yours.” This was the defining statement that brought the realization to Hudner. That moment led him to truly open himself and see Brown’s racial position relative to his own. It can be called Hudner’s eureka moment when he admired Brown for the strength of his character and became derisive of the institute that facilitated this unabated attack on his friend. He saw him as truly powerless against the system and struggling to make his own place in its functioning.
Devotion Movie Themes Analysed:
Reconciling the virtues of Duty and Battlefield Heroics
Both these notions do not always go hand in hand when it comes to situations in the military cadre. Even when something might not make sense, an officer has to follow the order blindly. There can be no prejudice to that command, and it must be carried out as it was intended. The consequences do not really matter, only that the orders are seen to the end. Successful completion of that shows discipline and respect for the code of conduct. We saw that in films like A Few Good Men when Downey confesses to Harold that they were following orders. But when it comes down to writing history, obeying orders is not as simple as it sounds, as was the case in Harold and Downey’s situation.
This theme was central to the ploy in Devotion. Both Hudner and Brown made exceptions to the thumb rule of not breaking the chain of command by measuring the repercussions of making a decision on the human aspect. Brown did it by detonating the bridge and saving lives, and Hudner did it by deliberately crashing his plane so that he could save Brown’s life. It was another thing when Hudner was not able to save Brown’s life, but that conflict must be addressed by the viewers.
Devotion Movie Ending, Explained:
Why did Tom Hudner deliberately crash his aeroplane?
Devotion’s ending is surely a tragedy but authentic in how everything went down. After the bridge incident and Hudner subrogating himself in Brown’s shoes, the film heads toward its climax. Brown received a special watch with a memorable inscription (“Above all others”) from a group of black sailors. inscribed in it. They were proud of Brown and wanted to show their appreciation for him. He was an inspiration to every Black kid who dared to dream and fly one day. Even though it was often a lonely fight, they reminded him of the importance of his presence. His very presence meant a lesson to the racist system that could not intentionally bog down the cadets of color for long.
Chosin Reservoir’s final mission is the ending of Devotion. Hudner and his team of brilliant fighters are ordered to give aerial support to the battling marines in the ocean. After their arrival, the balance of power tilts towards the Americans, and we see the aviators take the opposition to the chin. Hudner and Brown are especially courageous in how they carry out their duties. Unfortunately, Brown’s plane gets hit, and it starts leaking oil. It meant that he could not fly for much longer and had to crash land somewhere in order to be saved. Hudner noticed this and ordered Brown to do so. But the fighter was more concerned about his fellow mates than himself.
Hudner wanted Brown to crashland on a plain mountaintop from where the rescue operation could be initiated. He himself crashed to make the rescue happen, but when he reached the spot, he saw that Brown was irredeemable. He was badly stuck under the aircraft and could not be taken out by himself alone. The two friends had to bid an emotional goodbye, and Brown realized that only Hudner could tell his wife Disy how much Brown loved her. The rescue mission fails, and even his body is not able to be retrieved as the enemy is still in their tracks, and the area is a risky one to stall for too long.
Hudner informs the family and emotionally transmits the message. Hudner was not able to get back the remains in 2013 when he was accompanied by Makos, who wrote the book, to North Korea. The attempt was his final one as the decorated soldier expired in 2017. One of the most interesting quotes from the movie was when Brown read a passage from a book. “a determination in his heart to prove every racist wrong… He was carrying a heavy weight on his shoulder, and the journey was extremely lonely, but there was a fire in him to reach the sky and silently protest against all those who had wronged him and looked down upon him.”
Devotion (2022) Movie Links – IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes
Devotion (2022) Movie Cast – Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, Joe Jonas