You’ll believe a man can fly a jet with a hair-raising daredevil, and seeing him will make grown men weep with nostalgia, in Top Gun: Maverick – the breathtakingly fantastic sequel to 1986’s Top Gun, a film that made Tom Cruise the “maverick” star he is today.
I don’t see any reason to talk at length about Top Gun – nor the creators of the sequel for that matter. Chances are you’ve probably seen the original, or if you haven’t, you’ll see it before you see Maverick, or you’ll definitely see it after.
The sequel, however, sticks firmly to the basics of the original – how can it not? — and, miraculously, manages to capture the tone, seriousness and nostalgia of the first films without seeming false or cutesy.
Scenes instantly take you back to familiar ground: from the opening shots of planes taking off with Harold Faltermeyer’s epic title track, to topless men and their sweaty bodies playing at the beach, Maverick (Tom Cruise), giving her movie love interest (Jennifer Connelly) a ride home on her bike, to performing Great Balls of Fire on a piano in a bar – you’ll feel like you’re watching, and at the same time not to watch, a remake .
The Maverick the Top Gun sequel isn’t just for those who saw and grew up with the original film. It will inspire a new generation to believe the sky is the limit
The feeling you often get is that of a surreal, deja vu dream that is recognizable but new.
Gunfire from fighter jets swooping through valleys, nose diving, back spinning, and defying g-forces in straight thrusts through the stratosphere lifts you out of this fantasy, one sequence at a time.
The aerial sequences are probably the best cinema has made to date. They are elevating Maverick to new heights that will likely take another 36 years to surpass. The original mix of real-life footage and scale radio-controlled jet replicas is still unbeatable, even in the age of photorealistic visual effects.
Maverick feels Tom Cruise’s dedication to quality. Netflix, Amazon, or any OTT for that matter, cannot make a movie out of these visual and narrative attributes; the film tells you why there are cinemas in the first place – and that they don’t go anywhere.
There is no compromise, as the public gets what they pay for, down to the last penny which, in today’s economy, is excruciating to grasp and hard to let go.
Still, let loose, because Maverick is an endangered breed, as one character tells Pete Mitchell (that’s Maverick’s real name), in one scene.
Even after 36 years, Pete is still a captain, still living on the edge. He tests next-generation jet planes, pushing the machines to their theoretical limits – but not because he wants to push himself to his limits. No, Pete does it because he knows he can. There’s nothing arrogant about his confidence. He was born to do this. He does it. It’s so simple.
When Pete tests a state-of-the-art experimental jet by pushing it past its 10 Mach limit, saving the program from flameout (the exercise was to push it to nine o’clock that day, if it was possible to do so), he is transferred to Top Gun – a training program for the elite – to train a new breed of “the best of the best” to complete a nearly impossible mission.
In the selection of young pilots is Lieutenant Bradley Bradshaw alias “Rooster” (Miles Teller), the son of his friend Nick Bradshaw, alias “Goose”, who died accidentally in the first film.
Bradley hates Pete, because Pete, the closest thing he had to a father, wasn’t around when he was growing up. Pete, however, has always been a solo pilot (except for his relationship with Goose). As Maverick spins, we dig deep into Pete’s emotions without making the film a teary family drama.
Connelly, beautiful as always, matching Cruise’s zing-for-zing chemistry, runs the bar that Pete and Nick used to frequent; she has just enough scenes to bring out her character and her inhibitions.
Everyone else – be it Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, Bashir Salahuddin or the young cadets played by Glenn Powell, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Greg Tarzan Davis and others – fit in perfectly, as if they had always belonged to it. same universe.
Credit that to production by Jerry Bruckheimer and screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, from a story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks. Joseph Kosinski, the director of Tron and Oblivion, takes on a very different, very controlled, almost reverential appearance. The job, first and foremost for everyone I think, was to make everything feel like a natural extension of the first film.
Val Kilmer, who plays Pete’s former nemesis Ice Man, is now an Admiral – a position Pete should have easily achieved by now. The encounter between Cruise – a standout actor often fired due to his star status – and Kilmer is a tearjerker; but then the second and third acts of this film progress slowly.
As I said at the start: grown men will mourn, or at least suffocate and retain the overwhelming sense of melancholy reminiscence evoked by Maverick.
Maverick, however, isn’t just for those of us who saw and grew up with the first film. It inspires a new generation, who will believe that, if you have a natural talent for something, the sky is the limit – and that seeing someone cross that limit is what movie magic is all about.
Top Gun: Maverick is rated PG-13 and playing in theaters worldwide. Nothing should stop you from watching it on the big screen
Posted in Dawn, ICON, June 5, 2022