Devotion does not at all attempt to be the next Top Gun, but when your movie is about a Navy fighter pilot who excels at shooting down enemy aircraft, the comparisons are going to come in spades—and sadly, the comparisons aren’t great.
While the emphasis here—the movie is a historical drama about a famous Black pilot who fought in the Korean War—isn’t about the action, oddly the action is the least of Devotion’s problems. The couple of battle sequences understandably don’t compare to the high octane events of Top Gun: Maverick, but they still deliver some solid white knuckle moments and patriotic achievements.
But where Top Gun: Maverick was brimming with energy even when its characters were grounded, Devotion is shockingly even keeled—and that’s not a compliment. There’s a lot of talking, the drama is mild, and the film’s most emotionally charged scenes, largely involving racial tensions, come off forced or confused. A more vigorous edit, both at the screenplay stage and in post production, could have resulted in a film with more inflection points—and a willingness to shoot skyward.
Still, Devotion maintains a mild level of entertainment value that makes the movie slightly enjoyable despite its notable faults. Jonathan Majors is very good, hampered only by the material that makes his anguish more confusing (or unnecessary) than it needed to be. Glen Powell, who also had a big role in Top Gun: Maverick, is also very good; more importantly, the two have great chemistry together, which elevates the somewhat flat material.
Devotion isn’t a lost cause, but it’s an exercise in missed opportunity. A movie about an ace fighter pilot shouldn’t be this bland. A movie about an ace fighter pilot should be able to at least achieve liftoff.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.