So I went to see Devotion…

I weighed in last week on the behind-the-scenes attention to detail of the new J. D. Dillard/Erik Messerschmidt Sony Pictures war biopic Devotion, focusing on the too-short life of Ens. Jesse Leroy Brown and his “Fighting Swordsmen” wingman, Lt. (j.g) Thomas J. Hudner Jr., who flew side-by-side at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War.

1950 photo of Fighting 32 (VF 32) ahead of USS Leyte’s Med deployment that soon became a Korean combat tour

If you missed that, the production went all-out, leasing real MiG-15s, F4U Corsairs, A-1 Skyraiders, and F8F Bearcats, then constructing an Essex-class straight deck carrier in a field to put them all on for static shots.

I mean, Dillard is the son of a Blue Angel and his first memory is touching the nose of his dad’s just-landed F-18– so what do you expect?

Said the director on his use of these vintage war birds:

It was by far the most meticulous part of the filmmaking process, but it was important to me aesthetically that we put as much realism in front of the camera as we could. There aren’t even enough of these period planes still flying to fill the skies in the way that we wanted to. But what we always prioritized is that the action happening closest to the camera was practical. That 17th plane, half a mile off, can totally be CGI. But the plane flying very close to the camera is a real Corsair painted with the real squadron’s letters and numbers, and there are real stunt pilots in those planes, executing real maneuvers. That was very important to me and ultimately worth the prep and the planning.

And, besides tapping in actor Glen Powell– who played the cocky “Hangman,” the modern Iceman substitute in the new Maverick movie– Dillard also used the same aerial photography team that worked on that project but with the benefit of fewer restrictions.

“I joke that they spent 200-plus million dollars on R&D, then came to work with us,” Dillard says. And since his film didn’t use modern U.S. Navy planes, he had more freedom. “There is significantly less red tape when you want to take that plane 15 feet over the water at more than 100 miles an hour and photograph it, which at one point we did,” he says. “There are also technical differences in photographing those aircraft… As a small example, you can’t put a camera directly behind an F-18, because there’s jet blast. But we could sit our camera plane right on the tail of the Corsair because it has a propeller — you’re not worried about the camera melting from the afterburner.”

With this lead-up, how could I NOT go see the movie on opening night last week?

I can report that it was a good film, that should be seen on the biggest screen possible to drink it in, full of amazing and unique warbird shots. As far as the plot, it is based on a true story and they stick to most of the real details with only minor deviations. The dialog was a little hokey at times but certainly not any worse than that seen in other modern war films.

As Brown was the first African-American U.S. Navy officer killed in action, he has long deserved a decent film telling his story and this is it. Going past that, it is entertaining and, while circling back to the racial elephant in the room several times, doesn’t make it the prime driving point of the film. I’m no movie rater but if you had to ask me, I’d give it at least an 8 out of 10 overall.

If you have some time to kill, you could find worse ways to spend two hours.

Perhaps it will lead to Brown getting a destroyer named after him. 

Speaking of which.

Welcome home, Hudner

Of interest, the SURFLANT-tasked Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116), commissioned in 2018, just returned this weekend from the inaugural deployment of the Gerald R Ford Carrier Strike Group.

As detailed by the ship’s social media page:

-We sailed 15,148 miles,
-Conducted 7 replenishments at sea,
-Set 8 Sea and Anchor details
-Completed 2 Straits Transits
-Saw winds as high as 52 knots,
-Completed 78 flight quarters,
-Inducted 4 new Chief Petty Officers,
-Qualified 3 new Officers of the Deck, 2 new Tactical Action Officers, and 8 new Engineering Officers of the Watch
– Expended 52,266 rounds of ammo,
– Passed 1 Engineering Certification,
– Visited 2 new countries,
And made countless memories along the way.

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