Devotion - Meet the ones who made history in America’s forgotten war

All I knew about this going in was that is had three things I really like: airplanes, Glen Powell, and Johnathan Majors. And I loved the opening sequence with the Bearcats! They’re so cute! I want to put one of them on my keychain! So I figured we were settling in for a movie about Bearcats in the Korean War. Cool by me. Let’s do this. Bearcat porn wouldn’t be my first choice, but I’ll take it.

But then there’s a scene when the sardonic commanding officer is giving some exposition. Something about Russia, but I wasn’t paying attention, because while he’s talking, an actual F4U Corsair taxis up behind him and parks.

At that point, my inner 10-year-old flipped out.

I lost my shit and starting running around the room, all but bouncing off the walls, holding my arms out at my sides – but cocked downward to resemble the inverted gull wings of an F4U – and making airplane noises, reciting gibberish prayers to Robert Conrad, Pratt & Whitney, and all the Vought aerospace companies. It’s an actual F4U, those lines, those curves and that deep blue, those jauntily cocked wings, that massive propellor, the cozy little bubble canopy. OH. MY. GOD. THIS. IS. THE. BEST.

I had assumed from the year 1950 this was going to be a movie about jets tangling in MiG Alley, which would have been fine by me. But it was about ground support with Corsairs! It was about one of the airplanes that seared itself into my brain when I was a kid. But unlike the A-10, the B-25, the B-17, or the Bf-109, all of which came to be meaningful to me for historical or technical reasons, I responded to the F4U because of a dumb TV series called Baa Baa Black Sheep, much the same way other kids might care about Airwolf or a Transformer or a He-Man or a Captain America. The Corsair was a fixture of my childhood, and only later would I fill in the blanks about what it actually was, what it could actually do, what it actually did. So, yeah, I lost my shit when a Corsair rolled on screen, brought along some of its buddies, and took over the rest of the movie. They made this movie just for me!

I especially liked how the movie accurately modeled the Corsair’s tendency to pull to the right and veer into uncontrollable melodrama. Furthermore, when subjected to the stress of successive escalating action sequences, the Corsair’s airframe was liable to buckle and give way to CG sequences of implausible nonsense common in these kinds of aircraft movies. So props to Devotion for accuracy on that front. I didn’t mind so much. Just give me another glimpse of those majestic idiosyncratic beasts soaring over the ocean and the snowy mountains, settling down onto carrier decks or rising into the sky. I’m in heaven…

Because I didn’t know what kind of movie this was, allow me to confess what I thought I was watching for probably about a half hour or so. When Glen Powell and Johnathan Majors first meet, in the locker room, I honest-to-god thought they were gay. I thought – incorrectly – that the movie was taking pains to show us they’re both unmarried, that Majors is somewhat alienated from the rest of the squadron. And there was a weird sort of tension/attraction between them that I guess was supposed to be some sort of 50s machismo? But to me it felt like the kind of buttoned up emotion from movies like Carol, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which explores the taboo of homosexuality during other times.

So when Glen Powell keeps dropping items, I thought he was flirting! He drops the class ring and the wool cap, and I thought they were intentionally dropped for Majors to pick up and comment on, like something they were doing as a couple. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that I think both men are drop-dead gorgeous, and I don’t see how anyone can watch Everybody Wants Some!! without crushing hard on Powell, and I’m totally comfortable saying these things as a straight man! So I’m rooting for them to get together, and I’m a little surprised so much manly airplane porn is being stirred into a movie about gay relationships, but I’m all for doing whatever it takes to drag airplane fans into a better understanding of the myriad elements of the human condition.

So when Majors sneaks into someone’s house and shushes a baby and then ambushes some woman from behind, I was briefly very confused. Oh, that’s his wife? He’s married? So it’s a movie about a bisexual man in the 1950s? Because when Majors’ car breaks down and Powell picks him up at the side of the road, I figured it was going to be about a gay couple in an even more forbidden than usual relationship! Which I guess it already was what with them being inter-racial, but now one of them is even married! I mean, otherwise, why would it be called “Devotion”? Surely this isn’t just a movie about airmen being men?

Of course, I was wrong, and there’s nothing subversive here. Even the racism stuff is safely removed from the main characters, which I kind of appreciate in terms of entertainment value, but it made for a pretty facile script.

So that was my experience with Devotion. Loved the cast, especially the Corsairs, but I wished it hadn’t devolved into cheap melodrama and dumb CG. But I had a great time and it was so cool to get reacquainted with a childhood friend.

And I still want a Bearcat on my keychain.

Hah! Love your take, Tom. Right with you on Baa Baa Black Sheep. I met the real Pappy Boyington at an airshow when I was a kid and I still picture Robert Conrad when I hear that name.

Just a clarification that the flying is real. They even built a practical aircraft carrier deck outside Savannah GA to fly Corsairs from. The only CG is stuff like the carriers in the water, the crash landing, gunfire, and the North Korean AA stuff. (Which was admittedly overblown.) Yes, it’s still exaggerated, but compared to… well, every aviation movie since the invention of CG… it’s pretty close to reality.

Oh, sure, and that stuff is amazing even if it’s increasingly common (thanks, Tom Cruise!). But I definitely wondered what they did to put the actors in the cockpits of single-seater F6Fs! I figured it was a rebuilt trainer, but they do a really good job selling the illusion that the actors are flying the planes.

But the more the movie goes on, the further away it gets from this. The bridge bombing and the Chosin stuff are both massively computer-generated sequences. Cartoons, really. I enjoyed the cartoons, but I was keenly aware they were cartoons, and I would have much rather gone back to the camera sliding sensually over actual flushed-rivet sheet metal. So hawt.

But, yeah, it’s an airplane movie, and the cinematic inspiration will always be the trench run from Star Wars. But I still hope that one day someone will make a movie about turning-and-burning and booming-and-zooming at 15,000 feet, with pilots worrying about stall speed and choked carburetors and realistic ammo loadouts. You know, a movie for you and me! As long as the camera loves the aircraft as much as I do, I’ll be plenty entertained! But, yeah, you’re right. Until then, we get Devotion’s airplane action sequences for dummies.

My Dad was the last living member of the Centurion club for the USS Yorktown prior to his death a few years ago. You got that for having over 100 carrier landings. He got his flying Corsairs. Though he flew some other stuff as well through the years, that was his favorite. He was in Vietnam more than The Korean War (tail end). I should watch this movie but it will prolly be tough.

You are correct, sir. I read they built false Hellcat cockpits in the rear of trainers. It didn’t specify, but I’m assuming T-6s. I have the 4K Blu-ray on order and I’m really hoping for some making-of footage.

I totally get what you’re saying and don’t disagree. At the same time, my eyes suffered permanent damage from rolling so rapidly watching Pearl Harbor and the Midway remake that I appreciated the attempt to tone it down a bit here.

@morlac, wow. I don’t envy your dad having to fly combat in those wars, but what an amazing part of history in which to be a pilot. If you’re comfortable sharing at some point, I’m sure there are lots of people on Qt3 who’d be fascinated to hear about his flying experiences.

Like Tom, Devotion was not what I expected. i’m actually a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know the story, given my love for aviation, and military heroism. The flying scenes were excellent, and F4U is one of the sexy airplanes ever made, and I too loved Baa Baa Black Sheep. I also meet Pappy Boyington at an airshow. in fact, he was at two maybe three airshows I went to in the 1980s,

The only thing that bothered, was the ground combat It llooked like they were shooting lasers at each other. There was no way there was that many tracers in the air.

Still two great airplane moves in one year is a very good year.

The movie appears to be very accurate historically.

Devotion True Story: What The Movie Gets Right & What It Changes.

Some of the river and Chosin scenes were filmed up near Wenatchee, Washington, but not exactly sure what. The Columbia confluence is up through town, and even up there it’s a big river, so I’m sure maybe they used it as a basis and kinda fuddled the rest.

Flying Bearcats and Corsairs though, holy hell, this movie could have been just that. FYI I went to Pima a few weeks back and they had a wonderufl Tigercat, which is frankly one of the most beautiful WW2 planes ever (and also served in Korea).

— Alan

So many fellow Pappy Boyington Baa Baa Black Sheep fans. You are my people.

I was a huge WW2 naval aviation nerd back then. My other touchstone was the original Midway movie, although the scenes of all the pilots getting killed gave my young self some serious nightmares.

He didn’t talk too much about his service, neither did my Uncle for that matter (Marine). Especially anything combat related. Dad was kinda a perfect tweener between Korea and Vietnam. Very tail end of one and then purely support during 'Nam. He flew some recon sorties in Korea but it was pretty much over and He was a sub hunter during Vietnam so he flew escort/recon on bombing runs. Didn’t see much action supposedly but as he got older he would mention things in passing that would make you double take. Those were mostly non combat related though. Like how versatile the Corsair was and how if you emptied it out except for just the pilot seat you could fit a lot of booze on that thing. He was the “entertainment director” for the officer’s club on the Yorktown whatever that was :). I think that story was when they were stationed outside Hong Kong on some SE Asia tour. He did go from prop Corsair’s to jet Corsair’s (the A-7 I think) so that is pretty cool. I took his jacket and helmet to show ant tell as a kid, his call sign was Locke. Like ‘lucky’ but with a lock which was short for Pollock since he was Polish and close to our last name but about 2 letters off that and ended in Luck. So that all got combined into Locke…shrug. Old Highshool/College football nickname. He spent some time in Reserves at Dobbins Air Force base at the end of his career and retired a Lt. Commander in the late 70’s/early 80’s I think. I was like 8. He never flew a plane again which I always found odd but I did get VIP tours of any airshow that came through Dobbins and I got to see all of the Yorktown including his room he was in for his last tour and anything else that was off the tour. He spent his last couple years in Charleston living with my sister and hanging out around town in his LT Cmdr. Yorktown hat never paying a tab anywhere. Swing by the VFW and you’ll see a plaque and picture of him on the wall. One of my favorite picture of us is on my Sister’s boat in the harbor with the Yorktown looming behind us. I’ll try and upload it.

Now those are the kind of technical specs we need on these aircraft!

Awesome. Nothing like having to explain your username! Hope you can find that picture. I’d love to put a face to the username. :)

Here ya go! Thanksgiving time 2018.

Thanks for sharing that, @morlac! And cool to see y’all with the Yorktown!

What a transition, from the F4U Corsair to the A-7 Corsair II. It’s amazing how much progress was made in aviation from the 40’s to the 70’s. Particularly when you consider how many aircraft the services are still flying today were initially designed in the 70’s.

I am smiling so much right now! Thanks for that, @morlac.

Awesome story and pic @morlac ! I was at the Yorktown back in 18 as well, but it was a cold and rainy day. Even got a pic in front of the Corsair they had. Got some in front of other planes, but the Corsair is obviously my fav.

This fun little video just showed up in my feed. It’s basically a short commentary from one of the aviation enthusiasts who lent his F4U Corsair to the movie. He’s standing in the way of a good view of his plane, dang it, but at least he’s saying interesting stuff about how he ended up with a Corsair, how he got involved with the movie, and how the crew gave his airplane a makeover:

See if you can spot the floor wax and whiskey! I’m reminded of a commentary track for The Thing when someone says they mixed vodka into the fake blood to keep it from freezing.

Got the 4K Blu-ray today and there is a decent 12-minute making of video. I’d rather have had two hours of making-of, but what’s there is pretty cool. A bit on the Cinejet, the five Corsairs they got for the movie, etc. Jonathan Majors was pretty blown away by it all. :)

Interesting tidbits I didn’t know:

  • The helicopter they used is the oldest flying helicopter in the world
  • The shots of Powell and Majors in the cockpits in the air were done in the back seat of a two-seat Hawker Sea Fury, with false backs behind them to look like Corsairs or Bearcats.
  • Powell is a pilot IRL. Majors did training in a C172, including learning to do aerobatics, before they put him in the Sea Fury.
  • JD Dillard, the director, is the son of a Blue Angels pilot.

Some interesting shots of a fuselage replica on a rig they used to film Majors during the crash sequence as well.

There’s a second 12-minute short on the legacy of Jesse Brown. Watching that now.

Couldn’t find images of the Sea Fury they used for filming and it’s not shown in the making-of footage, but this is a good shot of why the canopy setup was good for getting real aerial footage of the actors.

The Sea Fury let them get faster high-speed footage than a T-6 would have.

Nice! That could also totally pass for the empennage of a Corsair stuck on the back of some other airplane! Although I feel like I’ve got just enough rivet-counter in me to note that the vertical stabilizer is too small. :)

I did exactly this same thing recently, having re-upped on Paramount+ for a month. Same rank order for me, too. TG Maverick was fun, but Devotion hit the feels a lot harder for me.

I found something you all might find interesting…

It is my Dad’s flight logs from his time in the reserves I believe. Pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to keep this…

Found some other stuff as well. Lots of paperwork, ribbons, Signed pictures with the Blue Angels. Etc. Can not find his damn helmet! I’ll post a pic if I do.