When Top Gun: Maverick hit theaters, its record run was most welcomed by fans, to the point many considered it the film that reignited cinema in the COVID-19 era. Tom Cruise once more wowed viewers as Maverick, leading a new generation of pilots in the Navy, including Goose’s son, Rooster — a story that’s once more hitting cinemas in a limited run. This was the perfect mix of nostalgia and dogfights for a new generation of fans, with the property modernizing and updating the ’80s classic as need be.
However, 2022 has yet another bombastic ride in the sky unfolding at present in the form of Devotion: a biopic about Jesse Brown, a Black naval officer in the Korean War. Interestingly, as history’s revisited, it actually outdoes Maverick in two big ways, shocking fans who think it’s all about saving the day and getting the girl in these movies.
Devotion Shows the Harsh Reality of Breaking Rules
In Top Gun: Maverick, Maverick once more broke a ton of rules, proving he was the same rogue decades later. He did so in training with his young charges and again in the field when they had to bomb a mysterious European enemy. However, each time, Mav was rewarded and celebrated like an American icon — admittedly, coming off as someone benefiting from white privilege in a white Navy. Of course, this is the idealistic setting of the franchise, which glorifies Mav’s disregard for authority as something novel.
Devotion follows suit in terms of breaking rules, retelling Jesse’s debacle when his battalion bombs a bridge near the Korean-Chinese border. America needs it done ASAP, but after the first pass, Jesse breaks ranks and finishes the job with a second missile launch. However, his commanding officer, Tom, logs it, despite being grateful for the win. It’s not that he hates Jesse’s actions, but he’s by the book.
Sadly, it leads to the superiors slapping Jessie with insubordination and an emotional conversation in Devotion where Jesse tells Tom that, even if the all-white battalion vouches for him, a slap on the wrist for a Black man in the ’50s has dire repercussions. Very few people want him in the military, so this could easily be their excuse for booting him out. In his case, promotion is automatically off the table, with Jesse reminding Tom about institutionalized racism and how he doesn’t have the luxury they have when they bend orders. It speaks to history, discrimination, and also how it really is in the military, regarding who’s seen as a true blue hero.
Devotion Paints a Scarier Behind-Enemy-Lines Scenario
In Maverick, Rooster’s plane went down, so Mav broke ranks to find him. They snuck onto the enemy’s base, hijacked an old bomber, and then, à la Fast & Furious, high-tailed it out in a finale that was way too plot convenient and silly. Again, this speaks to the cheesiness of the ’80s and how this sequel doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Come Devotion, Jesse ends up going down in North Korea after a run to help Marines pinned down on the ground. Tom crashes his plane to try to rescue Jesse from the cold, but the protagonist is permanently stuck. Sadly, even after a Marine chopper flies in, Tom has to abandon Jesse, who sends his final wishes back to his family.
It’s a heartbreaking scene, and honestly, those not caught up on war history might be caught off-guard. In the end, it’s a realistic take because the chopper can’t wait in the dead of night, and they can’t risk running into soldiers on the ground. Ultimately, Devotion has no deus ex machina like Mav’s mission, reminding folks of the rigors of war and how often they don’t have happy endings.