Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA

When heroism gets up close and personal

Director JD Dillard takes emotional storytelling to new heights in the period epic “Devotion,” a moving true story about U.S. Navy fighter pilots Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) and their heroism during the Korean War. In photographing the harrowing narrative, cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt tells The Envelope they viewed the film as a drama first, “a story about friendship and sacrifice” while the action was secondary. Even so, the awe-inspiring battle sequences place viewers inside the cockpits with the characters to give an “intimate and real” sensation, while aerial shots, like the one above, were designed from actual combat footage. “It was important that the film didn’t feel like Hollywood drama intercut with random second unit action shots,” Messerschmidt says. “JD, myself, Michael FitzMaurice (aerial director of photography) and Kevin LaRosa (aerial coordinator) spent a lot of time together designing our sequences so they felt intentional and cohesive.” Adding to the intimacy, imagery was captured in large format with relatively wide lenses, especially for close-ups. “The camera was often just a few feet from the actors,” notes Messerschmidt. “I think it brings the audience into the scenes so they feel a part of it and not just silent observers.”

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