Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10)
When paying homage to a war hero, one would assume that the character in question deserves a fitting tribute. Unfortunately, director J.D. Dillard’s biography of African-American Korean War aviator Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) comes up somewhat short. The film’s first half is tediously paced and includes considerable extraneous material, with a narrative that’s rather episodic in nature. The characters (other than the protagonist) and the picture’s principal themes (including Brown’s struggle to fit in to a newly integrated military) also feel somewhat underdeveloped, leaving some of the potentially strongest elements of this story on the table. And, despite an apparent intention to make up for oversights that have caused the Korean conflict to be called “America’s forgotten war” (as noted in the film’s opening graphics), the picture never really picks up on that idea to any great degree, treating the war as more of a backdrop than anything else. Thankfully, this biography makes up for these shortcomings somewhat in the second half as the story becomes more focused and considerably more compelling, but that’s not enough to save the production overall, despite some fine camera work and a solid performance by Majors as the devoted airman. This offering, despite apparent good intents, could really have used some judicious retooling before being released to allow it to live up to its potential and to give Airman Brown the recognition he truly deserved.