Actors Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell portray famed naval aviators Jesse L. Brown and Thomas J. Hudner Jr. in the upcoming Korean War film, Devotion. The movie has gained traction since the release of its official trailer, but what has caught the attention of military enthusiasts is the fact the production featured the use of aircraft from the 1950s.
Devotion features a number of aircraft that were flown during the Korean War, including a Douglas A-1 (AD) Skyraider, a Grumman F8F Bearcat, a number of Vought F4U Corsairs, a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 and a Sikorsky HO5S-1 helicopter. A modified Aero L-39 Albatros was also used as an air-to-air camera platform.
“When I first met the producers and told them that we had to [shoot] in-camera, the first problem is, well, where are the planes coming from? Finding 80-year-old planes that are still in working order, that can withstand the sort of stress that we’re going to put them through was certainly a task, but at the end of the day, we had a hangar full of them.
“It adds a level of realism to put our camera jet 10 feet away from these flying museums and lens them up for real with the beautiful backdrop of clouds at 10,000 feet.”
The film tells the story of the friendship between Jesse Brown, the Navy’s first African-American aviator, and Thomas Hudner. The latter was inspired to join the service following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during the Second World War, while the former earned his wings in October 1948.
The pair were both assigned to Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32) onboard the USS Leyte (CV-32), flying F4U-4 Corsairs. During this time, Hudner proved to be a true friend of Brown’s, providing him support at a time when there were few Black servicemen in the Armed Forces.
They were deployed to Korea in October 1950. During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in December 1950, Hudner and Brown were part of a group of pilots flying a search and destroy mission that also doubled as a probe into Chinese troop strength in the area. During the flight, Brown’s aircraft was hit by small arms fire from Chinese infantry hiding in the snow. This caused it to leak fuel, eventually leading to a crash that seriously injured the pilot.
Seeing his friend was in danger and wanting to help, Hudner purposefully crashed his own aircraft into the mountaintop. He, too, suffered injuries, but was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Sadly, Brown died from the wounds he’d suffered. At the time of his passing, he’d flown a total of 20 combat missions over Korea.
Prior to portraying Brown in Devotion, Jonathan Majors had gained fame through his appearances in HBO’s Lovecraft Country and Disney’s Loki. In the interview with Entertainment Weekly, he shared that he was immediately interested in portraying the naval aviator in the film, as his family has a history of not only serving in the Navy, but with the US Army and Air Force, as well.
“I myself haven’t [served],” he told the publication. “But there’s something about the soldier archetype that’s always kind of been with me.”
He also shared his determination to experiencing flight in the same way pilots at the time did. “I call it the dog s**t reality,” he said. “You know, getting in the plane, trying to hold your lunch down, your breakfast down, sweating bullets out in the flight. I refused to take Dramamine because they didn’t have it [during the Korean War].
“I refused to come down. They were like, ‘Are you sick?’ ‘Yeah, I’m sick as a dog.’ ‘Do you want to come down?’ ‘No, I don’t want to go down. Keep going!’ Because you want to experience it.”
Devotion is slated to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), before debuting in theaters on November 23, 2022.