If "they don't make 'em like they used to" is a thing you say about movies, "Devotion" is for you.
There's a Gary-Cooper-bravely-going-into-battle vibe to the fact-based drama, set during the Korean War. Jonathan Majors plays Ensign Jesse Brown, who broke racial barriers among Navy pilots in 1950. Glen Powell, in his second airman-who-doesn't-play-by-the-rules role of the year (after "Top Gun: Maverick"), plays colleague Tom Hudner, who serves alongside him and becomes his lone buddy.
Majors ("The Last Black Man in San Francisco," "Lovecraft Country") has been on the verge of big stardom for a few years, and "Devotion" could be the movie that finally does it for him.
His Brown is haunted, a quiet and soulful man whose confidence is a very convincing facade. He reveals his doubts and anger only when he's alone, staring into a bathroom mirror and parroting all the most awful things that can be said to a Black man who's blazing a trail. In another actor's hands, the scene might be too much, but Majors' spare, dignified performance is powerful because he doesn't resort to easy theatrics.
There are some exciting flying scenes — featuring Corsairs, the Jaguars of the air — and we're told enough about the war to know how high the stakes are. But the movie is more interested in Brown's incredible-but-true adventures overseas (Elizabeth Taylor pops up, as she did in real life) and his long-distance love of his wife and baby back home in Rhode Island (Christina Jackson is a powerhouse as Jesse's fiery wife Daisy).
Their love is one thing the bland, generic title refers to. Allegiance to country is another. But the real meaning of "Devotion" becomes clear only as the movie ends, and the handkerchiefs come out.
***1/2 out of 4 stars
Rated: PG-13 for language.
Where: In theaters.