The Vought F4U Corsair fighter jets that Naval Aviators Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) learn to fly in JD Dillard’s Dedication were renowned for their speed and combat power throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The aircraft’s limited visibility and sensitivity to weight distribution, however, made them extremely difficult to handle. They look slick, but if mishandled, the results can be disastrous, as evidenced by one pilot’s (Nick Hargrove) slightly misguided decisions in the air, resulting in a fatal crash.
It’s an apt metaphor for the modern Hollywood biopic, which, when thoughtfully maneuvered by a talented director, can sometimes skyrocket. Yet even in the hands of the most skilled filmmakers, audiences are more often left with bloated, cumbersome behemoths like Dedicationa fuzzy, clunky-paced film that never quite takes off and, therefore, will do little to change perceptions of the Korean War as the “forgotten war.”
When he maintains his proverbial level of wings, focusing on too-infrequent air missions or immersing himself in Brown’s hustle as he faces the challenges of being the Navy’s first black airman, Dedication can be binding. But it’s bogged down by often slow storylines and an over-reliance on the dullest tropes of war movies and racial dramas, while remaining stubbornly apolitical in its perspective. It never quite finds its bearings, and its forced attempts to inspire as a social issue film only underscores how flat and lifeless it is as a dramatic work.
Pairing Majors with Powell was definitely the filmmakers’ smartest decision. Although more restrained here than it was in Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick, Powell manages to intermittently channel the sheer force of his charisma, and it contrasts effectively with the quietly powerful Majors. Indeed, Majors’ subdued yet empathetic portrayal of Jesse does far more to highlight the man’s heartaches and frustrations than Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart’s script. The actor conveys Jesse’s deep pain and resilience simply through a wrinkle on his forehead, a measured pause in his response, or his cautious manner around everyone in his unit, including his wingman, Tom.
Sadly, few interactions between Jesse and Tom do much to shed more light on their friendship and Jesse’s interiority, mostly highlighting Tom’s willingness to stand up for Jesse whenever his pal is faced with direct or indirect racism. That the duo are surrounded by so many bland avatars of male identity doesn’t help matters, nor does the film’s reductive “rotten apple” approach to racism, which puts almost all the vitriol and the violent threats that come their way at Jesse from the mouth of a unique character, Buddy Gill (Boone Platt).
While also based on a real person, Jesse and Tom’s platoon commander, Dick Cevoli (Thomas Sadoski), is clearly a 21st century concoction, given that he’s a source of seemingly patience and compassion. endlessly, and inclined to tenderly deliver the kind of sage advice that grows easily, and sometimes laughably, Dedication in dissonant territory. Elsewhere, Jesse’s wife, Daisy (Christina Jackson), is a cookie-cutter representation of the devoted and supportive housewife, right down to the unintentionally comedic detail of her still working hard to paint a different wall in their new house every time Jesse comes home. .
For all its heated character and narrative beats, Dedication finally delivers on some of its promise in the third act once Jesse, Tom and company find themselves embroiled in battle in North Korea. It’s not the most viscerally exciting setting, given the preponderance of CGI, but it’s the rare stretch of the film where the stakes seem truly high and Jesse’s skills as an aviator are largely on display. . Unfortunately, the majority of Dedication is grounded, filling the audience, like a skilled pilot, with the itch to take flight.
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Serinda Swan, Thomas Sadoski, Joseph Cross, Joe Jonas, Daren Kagasoff, Christina Jackson, Spencer Neville Director: JD Dillard Scriptwriter : Jake Crane, Jonathan Stewart Distributer: Pictures of Colombia Runtime: 138 minutes Evaluation: PG-13 Year: 2022