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‘Devotion’ Movie Celebrates Successes and Sacrifices of Navy’s First Black Fighter Pilot

Jonathan Majors (“The Harder They Fall,” “Lovecraft Country”) stars as the U.S. Navy’s first Black aviator in “Devotion,” a movie based on the bestselling book about Jesse L. Brown, who broke racial barriers and helped save American lives during the Korean War. Here’s everything you need to know about the inspirational aerial war epic.

The movie is based on the bestselling biopic Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice written by Adam Makos. While the 2015 book is nearly 500 pages, the movie itself (written by Jake Crane and Jonathan A. H. Stewart) is more than two hours long.

Although “Devotion” aims to bring to life onscreen the sacrifices and heroics of Jesse L. Brown, it wouldn’t be possible to tell his story without also celebrating his equally elite wingman, Tom Hudner. Played by Glen Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Hidden Figures”), Hudner and Brown seem to initially butt heads when paired up for key missions. But as their story unfolds, their friendship deepens.

“They aren’t necessarily best friends — they’re complete opposites. But they are soul mates. They are two sides of the same coin that fate has brought together,” according to Majors. “These two men discover things about themselves and each other in an attempt to fulfill their own personal legacies, their own personal destinies. Their devotion to each other is what ultimately unlocks that door.”

Not only is “Devotion” based on Brown’s and Hudner’s true stories, but the film also draws a bit from director J.D. Dillard’s (“Sweetheart,” “Sleight”) personal story. Dillard’s father also made history as the Navy’s second Black member of the Blue Angels, an elite squadron of pilots.

“My earliest memories are all surrounding aviation,” Dillard said. “My first memory is burning my hand on the nose of an F18 Hornet after an air show that my dad had just been a part of; Navy bases, the smell of jet fuel, that whole world… that is all tied to my earliest memories, and stepping into this film took me back to those places.”

Dillard’s background convinced Brown’s family that he was the right director to help tell the patriarch’s story onscreen.

“For our family, the journey of creating ‘Devotion’ has been at times inspirational, painful, heart-warming, and exhilarating. Having J.D., the son of a naval aviator, at the helm of this project was important. His personal connection created space to truly honor my grandfather’s story,” said Jessica Knight Henry, Jesse Brown’s granddaughter.

devotion movie poster
The “Devotion” movie poster. (Photo: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Brown made the ultimate sacrifice when he fell into harm’s way while protecting fellow soldiers on the ground. The 24-year-old aviator crashed behind enemy lines. Despite efforts to save him, Brown died from his injuries, becoming the first Black Naval officer killed in the Korean War. His remains were never recovered.

Brown is “an American hero,” according to Majors.

“The American dream is that you can pull yourself up from your bootstraps — but he didn’t just do that,” the actor said. “He pulled himself up from his bootstraps and put himself in the sky. And he did it with a heart as big as the ocean, with devotion for his family, for his country, and for his own self-worth. He aggressively went after things that seemed impossible. That’s the legacy of Jesse Brown.”

Other notable “Devotion” cast members include Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, and Joe Jonas. “Devotion,” rated PG-13, opens in theaters November 23. Buy tickets here.

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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