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Off the Shelf: Devotion Sticks the Landing on 4K

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Quad poster art for Devotion
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment/Paramount

Between Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Creed III, actor Jonathan Majors is blowing up right now. The first spark in this recent run came last November with the awards season historical entry Devotion. Majors enjoyed some Best Actor consideration for the film. The well-crafted and highly respectable drama from Sleight director J.D. Dillard debuts this week on physical media. We at Film Obsessive were granted an advance 4K copy from Paramount Pictures to review for our ever-popular “Off the Shelf” series.


Jonathan Majors plays Ensign Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in Navy history. His story during the Korean War parallels another pilot in his squadron, Lt. Tom Hudner, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Hudner is played by Top Gun: Maverick’s Glen Powell, who also serves as an executive producer that helped get Devotion off the ground. The cast also includes the exceptional Thomas Sadoski (88) as their squadron leader, Joe Jonas and Daren Kagasoff as fellow pilots, and Christina Jackson (The Night House) as Jesse’s wife Daisy.

Devotion follows Hudner and Brown meeting and becoming friends at a New England naval base before training and entering the Korean War. American air power helped turn the tide in the most brutal battle of that war. The heroic sacrifices of soldiers like Brown and his peers and the enduring friendships from that time have gone on to become Naval legend. Film Obsessive published a full review of Devotion a few months back. Be sure to check that out for a longer buffet of appreciation.


The 4K box art for Devotion
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Compared to other prestige releases or Oscar contenders, Devotion arrives more thin than think when it comes to bells-and-whistles and fan-worthy treats. Much like The Fabelmans recently, Devotion only boasts a pair of production featurettes, simplistic menus, and zero deleted, extended, or alternate scenes. At least The Fabelmans disc had menu music.

None of Chandra Dancy’s sweeping score welcomes Devotion viewers. Likewise, none of the three disc options for Devotion (separate DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K versions, never packaged together) carry any commentary tracks from the director, stars, or members of the creative team. That’s always a shame, especially in this case where nuggets and anecdotes had to exist comparing the finished film to the true story and the effort to perform flight stunts with 70-year-old aircraft.

The first featurette is the reasonably robust “The Aviation of a Forgotten War.” It runs about 15 minutes and focuses on the making of Devotion. Glen Powell is presented as a leading force where he– after reading the Adam Makos source novel– sought the blessing of the story rights holder and set out to get the movie made. Screenwriter Jack Crane took it from there and the producers found director J.D. Dillard, whose father was a former Blue Angels pilot when he was a kid. The director became a perfect hire and was a committed individual who knew that flight world first hand. 

Dillard enlisted flight coordinator Kevin LaRosa II to merge the flightworthy artifacts bearing camera mounts to the footage captured by the shadowing Cinejet helicopter flyers shooting in close quarters. The teams did their best, wherever possible to use practical aircraft and cameras without heavy VFX. The efforts really shine in the finished film.

“The Legacy of Jesse Brown” is the second and shorter of the two mini-documentaries on Devotion. Not that the two lead actors themselves didn’t get to chime in on the first piece, but this was the place where they were meant to shine. Majors and Powell outline their reverence and diligence to do right by their historical figures. Through reading Ensign Brown’s own letters, Jonathan zeroed in on finding Jesse’s joy and pride along with the late pilot’s aggression underneath the oppression that happened to him. The cast and creators follow suit to speak on characters and the uniqueness of this true, yet forgotten, slice of American military history. 

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on Film Obsessive as the Editor-in-Chief and Content Supervisor for the film department. He also writes for his own website, Every Movie Has a Lesson. Don is one of the hosts of the Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network and sponsored by Film Obsessive. As a school teacher by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association, Online Film Critics Society, North American Film Critics Association, International Film Society Critics Association, Internet Film Critics Society, Online Film and TV Association, and the Celebrity Movie Awards.

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