This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonathan Majors, left,...

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Jonathan Majors, left, and Glen Powell in a scene from "Devotion."  Credit: AP/Eli Ade

PLOT Two Naval aviators, one Black, one white, form a friendship during the Korean War.

CAST Glen Powell, Jonathan Majors, Thomas Sadoski

RATED PG-13 (mild language, some bloodshed)


WHERE Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE A well-intentioned but underwhelming war drama.

Glen Powell, who established himself as a Tom-Cruise-in-training in “Top Gun: Maverick,” once again plays a Navy pilot in “Devotion,” a drama set during the early years of the Korean War. Powell plays Tom Hudner, who forms a friendship with the Navy’s first Black aviator, Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors, another rising star; his recent credits include HBO’s “Lovecraft Country”). Based on a nonfiction book by Adam Makos and directed by J.D. Dillard, “Devotion” tries to give its story the full Hollywood treatment with glossy photography, graceful aerial sequences and impressive period details. Somehow, though, the movie doesn’t soar.

“Devotion” begins in 1950, as Hudner joins a new squadron stationed in Rhode Island. Hudner hoped to see action in World War II, but just missed it. “We were born too late,” he ruefully says of his generation. Well, maybe not: Russia has its own A-bomb, the superpowers are being drawn into Korea and Lieutenant Commander Cevoli (a world-weary Thomas Sadoski) says Washington wants the troops on alert. Hudner and his fellow pilots — an indistinguishable bunch, though one is played by pop star Joe Jonas — will soon be pressed into service.

Is Hudner surprised to see Brown in his ranks? Not really; in fact, almost nobody is. “Devotion” takes pains to show us Brown’s experience with racism, but the picture it paints is pretty mild. There’s the occasional remark from an Army grunt or a nightclub doorman, but Brown’s all-white squadron is almost unfailingly supportive of him. How did Brown end up in this unusually tolerant group? Had the Navy really made such remarkable strides by 1950? At any rate, there’s little tension or drama during the movie’s first half.

What’s more, the two lead characters aren’t terribly compelling. Brown is a married man (Christina Jackson brings a nice warmth to his wife, Daisy) and a stoic: No partying, no alcohol, no smiling. As for Hudner, he’s a little too perfect: highly skilled but never cocky, fun-loving but well-behaved. The screenplay, by Jake Crane and Jonathan A.H. Stewart, is a little like Erik Messerschmidt’s cinematography: Only flattering angles are allowed.

“Devotion” picks up momentum when the squadron is stationed in France. There’s a charming encounter with Elizabeth Taylor (Serinda Swan) that gives Brown a reason to grin, and a gripping battle sequence that will lead Hudner and Brown to their final moments together in the snowy mountains of North Korea. Only in this touching last act does “Devotion” find the emotional power it’s been lacking.

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