(director: JD Dillard; screenwriters: Jake Crane/Jonathan A. H. Stewart/based on the book by Adam Makos; cinematographer: Erik Messerschmidt; editor: Billy Fox; music: Chanda Dancy; cast: Jonathan Majors (Jesse Brown), Glen Powell (Tom Hudner), Christina Jackson (Daisy Brown), Thomas Sadoski (Dick Cevoli), Nick Hargrove (Carol Mohring), Joe Jonas (Marty Goode), Serinda Swan (Elizabeth Taylor); Runtime: 139; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Molly Smith, Rachel Smith, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill; Columbia Pictures; 2022-in English, French, Korean, with English subtitles)

“A superficial but inspirational formulaic social issue military pic set during the Korean conflict.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A superficial but inspirational formulaic social issue military pic set during the Korean conflict in the 1950s, that’s based on the true story of the U.S. Navy’s first Black aviator, whose story is derived from the book by Adam Makos. It’s lamely written for the screen by Jake Crane and Jonathan Majors, grounding it in the steadfast relationship between the white and Black Navy men working partners over the action part of the story taking place in the sky. The bloated film is not interestingly directed by JD Dillard (“Sweetheart”/”Sleight”). The director is the Black son of only the second Black member of the Navy’s Blue Angels. In most theaters it will be seen on IMAX screens (as this striking visual presentation should be seen in this medium. I unfortunately did not see it in IMAX).

Jesse Brown (
Jonathan Majors) became the first Black aviator to graduate from the Navy’s flight training program. He serves in the Korean conflict (The “Forgotten War”) with the white wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell, played a Navy officer in the Top Gun sequel) as a member of the Fighting 32nd.

It follows along the trope lines of Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick, a more lively and better made film. The awkward dramatization tells of systemic racism in the military and in society, and raises the hope that unprejudiced whites can help put an end to racism. As the aviator and wingman bond, they encounter racism, but the Black aviator wishes to make no waves and therefore learns how to turn the other cheek over racial slurs from the likes of drunk seamen in bars.

The friendship between the flyboys grows over time to be more involving, while Brown’s caring and supportive wife (Christina Jackson) is seen as always being there for her spouse.

The film gains favor because the two lead characters are likeable and charming. The problem is the story is clunky, the dialogue is trite and the material is lightweight.

No great revelations come about in this unexceptional drama, as the director has nothing to say after disclosing the pioneering Black aviator had to fight harder to get where he’s at than did his white comrade.

REVIEWED ON 11/22/2022  GRADE: C+