“Devotion” Tells True Story of Remarkable Fighter Pilot Rescue from Forgotten War.
The story behind the best-selling book by Adam Makos, “Devotion”, is nearly as remarkable as the story Makos tells in the book itself. And now on the heels of the successful release of “Top Gun: Maverick”, Sony Pictures is hyping the upcoming release of a major studio production adapted from Adam Makos’ book, “Devotion”.
But Makos’ story has a big hill to climb compared to the built-in appeal of the sequel momentum in “Top Gun: Maverick”. The question is, will “Devotion” pack theaters the way “Maverick” did? The answer may be interesting.
“Devotion” is the based-on-fact story of the dramatic rescue attempt of Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown, a U.S. Navy F4U Corsair pilot from (then) VF-32 flying from the aircraft carrier USS Leyte (CV-32) during the Korean conflict in 1950. After 20 successful combat missions over Korea, Ensign Brown was shot down on December 4, 1950. Although Brown did not survive the ordeal, his wingman, U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas Jerome Hudner Jr., crash-landed his own F4U corsair in an attempt to rescue Ensign Brown. Capt. Hudner was eventually award the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, for his attempt to rescue Ensign Brown.
But like all great stories, there are two additional sub-plots to the story behind “Devotion”.
Firstly, Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown was the very first African-American U.S. Navy aviator. He overcame poverty and entrenched barriers to become The U.S. Navy’s first black fighter pilot. The U.S. Navy was slow to adopt racial integration of fighter pilots and followed the U.S. Army Air Forces by a decade after they started the 332nd Fighter Wing, the “Tuskegee Airmen” in 1940. The film “Devotion” showcases the obstacles presented to Ensign Brown by racism during the era.
Additionally, the story behind the story, or how author Adam Makos came to curate the heroic attempted rescue story of Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown and Capt. Thomas Jerome Hudner Jr., is also fascinating. Makos authored the 2017 book, “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice”. The book went on to become a significant hit, climbing to popular literary best seller lists and earning a remarkable 1,613 five-star ratings on Amazon.
Makos had built a minor literary schtick from interviewing veterans of WWII and Korea and telling their stories in his magazine, “Valor” prior to hitting it big with “Devotion”. His 2012 book, “A Higher Call”, showcased the remarkable story of WWII German fighter pilot Franz Stigler who intercepted a heavily damaged USAAF B-17 bomber over Europe and escorted the wounded crew to safety. The books, artwork their stories inspired, and now the upcoming release of the film “Devotion” have propelled Makos into mainstream media for curating stories in the same way Hollywood icon Tom Hanks has done with stories like, “Saving Private Ryan” and his more recent cinematic tour de force, “Greyhound”.
But the big question is, will movie audiences embrace the story and themes in “Devotion” the same way they did with “Top Gun” and “Top Gun: Maverick”? The answer is, possibly.
Makos’ real-life plot contains several elements that Hollywood script writers have already taken inspiration from in several movies, including most recently, the scene in “Top Gun: Maverick” where a similar incident with a pilot shoot-down and rescue (albeit quite fantastic in concept) takes place. But that isn’t the first. In the highly acclaimed 1954 film, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri”, a similar fictitious pilot-to-pilot rescue scene originally conceived by author James Michener takes place.
Additionally, in an era when WWII and Korean War veterans are increasingly disappearing, the retelling of their stories is becoming precious and rare before they are obscured by the distortions of time and perspective that pervade revisionist narratives.
The first theatrical trailer for “Devotion” debuted on YouTube the day after the general release of “Top Gun: Maverick” in U.S. theaters. Sony Pictures has said that the film “Devotion” is, “scheduled to be released in limited theaters on October 14, 2022, before expanding wide on Oct. 28, 2022”.