Devotion hit theaters so fast last Fall that I’m stunned that it couldn’t find an audience. Naturally, streaming has been saving it. What’s not to love about Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell leading a male driven Korean War action tale. Mind you a lot of things have changed since we first talked about Devotion. But, it’s still quite the cinematic treat.
The Korean War in American cinema
American films about The Korean War are always strange. While you have films like Inchon, the American studio system tends to stray away from War films about the era. Devotion is a throwback to a time when the Korean War filled cinemas. Fixed Bayonets, Dragonfly Squadron and Pork Chop Hill kept the 1950s bopping, but then the 1960s and Vietnam happened.
Devotion carries even more of the emotional approach to war films, but also tries to dip back into that Golden Age celebration of Americans fighting just wars. Still, the narrative focus of Devotion is around celebrating the highlights of Jesse Brown. Brown was the first African American Naval pilot. Much like Men of Honor, this film becomes another light history lesson by way of preachy narrative.
If it’s post 2010, that means a healthy amount of Revisionism
There is nothing a modern audience loves to do than rewrite history with expectations they picked up 3 years ago. But even the Post Vietnam revisionism to War films has warped and mutated over the last 50 years. You can’t tell a men on a mission story anymore without anchoring in female support, emotional ties or something new to say about what has already been covered.
Now, history has become a subjective experience where new insights are forced and designed into a narrative that allows for inclusion at all costs. It’s not enough to be anti-war, but you also have to scratch off the right amount of boxes to create a robust war-time tale. But, there is a reason why people don’t watch documentaries like they do the MCU.
Reality and forced attention to detail is best saved for people who want to argue about who is the strongest Avengers. We live among audiences of people who care about history, but only in terms of what they can read off the side of a Snapple bottle. How much did you know about Jesse Brown before Devotion? Hell, how much do you retain about him after watching the movie on Paramount Plus?
Devotion as Revisionist War Film
Revisionism has impacted film history for decades. While it’s not a bad thing, it tends to get used haphazardly a lot in recent years. You know what I said about Brown earlier that you probably read and went along with until now? Well, that’s the kind of revisionism I’m talking about. Basically, it’s easier to say someone was the first generalized pilot without saying Brown was the first African American pilot to complete flight combat training.
Even given the nature of Brown’s death and how the Navy wanted to keep his body from falling into Korean hands, Devotion kinda skimped back on it. But, that’s because it’s hard to sell an up-close napalming of a pioneering black man to modern audiences.
The Korean War: Based on True Events
My final thoughts on The Korean War as it related to Devotion are these simple takes. There is a reason why Americans moved off of The Korean War as a source of entertainment. Basically, we’ve grown disconnected from it. Certain books, tales and documentaries can bring us back to the time, but we live in an age that has a hard enough time handling The War on Terror. Asking them to care about 70+ years ago without an anchor such as The Holocaust is a bit much.
What did Paramount do for the 4K UHD?
Paramount has a weird relationship with their 4K UHD releases in 2022. Some have been off-putting and others have been stellar. Thankfully, Devotion falls on the stellar side. The A/V Quality is pretty sharp with a stunning 2160p transfer that makes the war time flying look amazing. However, I wish we could get an Atmos track instead of the stocky DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track.
The special features are typical featurettes. But at least they threw in a digital code.