Vol. 16, No. 09 – Jan 25 – Feb 7, 2023 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
Devotion – Paramount +

3 out of 4 palm trees
Breeze rating from 1 to 4 palm trees, 4 being best.

Devotion is the true story of United States Navy Officer Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), who was the first African-American aviator to complete the Navy’s basic flight training program and also the first African-American naval officer killed in the Korean War at the age of 24. Brown was stationed at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island and in early 1950 Lieutenant Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) transferred to the Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) and became Brown’s wingman.

The VF-32 had been flying F8F ‘Bearcat’ fighter planes, but the Navy created a modified F4U-4 Corsair they wanted them to fly in the Korean War. The Corsair was much more powerful than the planes they had been flying, and the pilots were warned by the chief engineer the if they didn’t manage the power properly they would easily crash. After learning the basics on the Corsair, the next test would be for them to land the plane on an aircraft carrier, which was difficult due to the Corsair having a longer front making it difficult to see in front of the plane.

After passing their carrier tests, the VF-32 was transferred to the USS Leyte, which deployed to the Mediterranean Sea to deter Soviet aggression. They were granted shore leave in Cannes, France and while off on his own Brown met actress Elizabeth Taylor at the beach, who invited him and his squadron to a casino she would be at later that evening. The other guys were skeptical about Brown’s chance meeting the a famous Hollywood star, but saw upon arriving at the casino it was all true and that Elizabeth Taylor had a thing for men in uniform, especially aviators.

Upon returning to the ship the VF-32 was assigned to take out two bridges critical to the enemy’s advances. Before they departed, Brown was given an expensive watch by Leyte’s black crewmen, who admire him for his work. The squadron left and began its attack, however after destroying the first bridge they took on heavy ground fire so retreated under Hudner’s command. Brown felt he could take out the second, so broke formation, flew back and took out the second bridge. Unfortunately, Hudner’s report made it appear that Brown didn’t follow command and was written up for insubordination.

Even though that wasn’t what Hudner intended, Brown explained that everything happens differently for him because he was black. Hudner sought to repair the situation, but had to redirect his focus due to the VF-32 being assigned to give air support to ground troops that were trapped and quickly losing ground. The squadron successfully attacked the enemy troops causing them to retreat and saving the Marines on the ground, however as they set out to return to the ship the sky filled with ground fire striking Brown’s plane which began to lose oil.

Brown was forced to drop his ammunition and fuel tanks and crash land his plane in a field. As Hudner circled around, he saw that Brown was somehow stuck in the plane and decided to try to rescue Brown following the same steps to crash his plane. When Hudner got to Brown, his leg was trapped and despite their joint efforts was unable to free Brown’s leg. A rescue helicopter arrived just as Brown lost consciousness, and Hudner had no choice but to leave him. Upon returning to the plane the squadron was told a rescue was too dangerous and later were sent to destroy both planes so they wouldn’t end up in enemy hands.

For his actions in Korea, Brown was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart Medal, and the Air Medal, and the frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor.

Rated: PG-13 Runtime 2h 19m

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