Top Gun: Maverick

9 out of 10

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell

Lets get this out of the way, the original Top Gun was not a great movie, it isn’t really that good of a movie either. But, it did make a huge cultural impact because it captured the thrill of being a Naval fighter pilot and flying by the seat of your pants. As a teen, I loved the movie for its aerial stunt sequences, plus all the memorable and quotable lines (“Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.") I did not know what to make of Top Gun: Maverick when it was announced, now that I have seen Top Gun: Maverick, what do I make of it?

Some thirty years after the end of the first movie, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is still a Captain because that’s where he himself chooses to be. He is now a test pilot in the Darkstar scramject project, still disobeying orders and doing things his own way. Maverick is approached by a hesitant Rear Admiral Cain (Ed Harris) at the request of Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) to train a group of pilots at Top Gun for an urgent special mission to destroy an unsactioned uranium enrichment facility in an unnamed foreign country.

The group of pilots that Maverick trains includes Nick “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), who is the son of Maverick’s old RIO “Goose”. Other pilots include (but not limited to) the cocky Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell), Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (Monica Barbaro) and her RIO Robert “Bob” Floyd (Lewis Pullman).

Along the way, Maverick reacquaints himself with an old flame, Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly).

Top Gun: Maverick is very well-balanced in tone and mood – and it knows exactly how to use nostalgia for maximum effect. The opening sequence put a old smile on my face because it tapped so deeply into the nostalgia of the opening sequence of the first film – down to even the fonts used in the credits which has a callback to Don Simpson. The script and movie move seamlessly between drama, thrills, action and even some life contemplation.

There is a long scene between Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise that was emotional and surprisingly adult – something that the first movie never achieved. And while the movie is full of exciting action, there is a quiet background moroseness that threads throughout the whole movie – it deals with Maverick aging and coming to terms with the possibly of the end of his career as a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants daredevil. Obsolescence is something that carries through from the start of the film to the end and much like how fighter pilots are being replaced by drones, at times the movie feels like it’s not just talking about Maverick retiring because of his age, but Tom Cruise also.

The flight sequences, aerial stunts and aerial photography in Top Gun: Maverick are top notch achieving grand levels of thrills that were so visceral that they had me squirming in my seat dodging missiles and feeling the G’s. These sequences were truly exhilarating and they show that there’s nothing like shooting real on reel to create a unique and genuine sense of excitement in a movie. Doing things for real elevates a movie to heights that cannot be achieved through special effects or computer generated visuals. I applaud Tom Cruise for his dedication to bringing real movie making to the big screen.

Tom Cruise does great in the film and it is readily apparent when he is pulling real G’s in the cockpit to how dedicated he is to the craft of creating a crowd-pleasing summer movie. Unlike in the first movie where Kelly McGillis and Cruise had zero chemistry, Jennifer Connelly is a much better screen partner with Cruise. Miles Teller is a spitting image of young Anthony Edwards and while I am not a fan of Teller, he does well in Top Gun: Maverick. The rest of the pilots aren’t given much, but are memorable in their own ways. The person that left an impression was Bashir Salahuddin as “Hondo”, who doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he makes each second on screen memorable. Kudos to Salahuddin.

Where the first movie barely had a plot to follow along with, I liked how Maverick has a mission that needs to be accomplished and we are given something to follow along with as the movie goes on. Tom Cruise is working with two people that he’s had success with before. The script is written in part by Christopher McQuarrie who worked with Cruise on the last few and also upcoming Mission Impossible movies. And director Joseph Kosinski worked with Cruise on Oblivion, which while not perfect, was memorable.

The sound design in the movie was aural perfection. There is something about feeling the sound in my chest that also made it so awesome.

Harold Faltermeyer’s unforgettable Top Gun Anthem is used marvelously in the movie, just hearing it during the opening sequence was enough, but having it sprinkled throughout the movie was magnificent. And it was a brilliant move to use Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone at the start of the film – just like in the original film. Even after 37 years, the song has not lost its ability to put a smile on my face.

I saw Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen and would encourage everyone to see it on the big screen. This is one of those movies that is specifically made to be seen on the big screen – you would be doing the filmmakers and yourself a disservice if you watch Top Gun: Maverick on a phone or computer screen.

Top Gun: Maverick is one of those special films in which the sequel completely outshines the original. I highly recommend Top Gun: Maverick.

Watched at Oakridge Cinemark 20.