As more and more films land on streaming services in shorter and shorter time frames (or even bypass the cinema entirely), it’s almost a novel thing to be itching to watch a film for months. This reviewer cared not for the iconic 80s backslapping-fest that was Top Gun, but the modern Tom Cruise work ethic means that, over 30 years later, Top Gun: Maverick is supersonic.
Top Gun: Maverick stuck steadfastly to a wide theatre release and has sat at the high Video On Demand rental price point for quite a while, making the eventual ‘free’ drop on to Paramount’s own streaming service somewhat of an event.
After the untimely death of original director Tony Scott, Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski stepped up to direct, with Mission Impossible writer/director Christopher McQuarrie co-credited on the screenplay.
Tom Cruise clearly believes in sticking with the creatives that work well with him. And when your main actor insists that the cast get months and months of fighter pilot training, clearly everyone needs to be on the same page.
What Is Top Gun: Maverick About?
Plot-wise Top Gun: Maverick is perhaps even thinner than its predecessor. There are only two elements at play. The first involves a highly dangerous mission, for which Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Cruise) must train a young troupe of new ‘Top Guns’.
Such mission is clearly just a vehicle for the action set pieces – the drama doesn’t even derive from the supposed importance of the mission (against an unnamed ‘rogue state’) – but then the mission itself is hardly the point.
No, the point is the sheer spectacle. Air combat training (and actual combat) have never looked so breathtakingly exciting. The why we are doing this is really, honestly, unimportant: merely a framework.
We feel each pull of G-Force, hold on tight through desperately tight manoeuvres, and gasp at hugely dangerous flybys. The extensive work that went into the action sequences for Top Gun: Maverick reap huge dividends.
Cruise is modern Cruise in the movie: exceptionally skilled but with the essential dollop of humility to make it sell. Our second plot thread is the tension between his character and Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller, Spiderhead).
Maverick and Rooster’s antagonistic relationship (due to the death of Rooster’s father, Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw in the original movie) drives the emotional core, such as it is.
Top Gun: Maverick Official Trailer
Is Top Gun: Maverick Worth Watching?
In truth, Teller has little to work with here. He sports a rather fetching moustache, and his butting heads with Cruise serves to tie together the emotional peaks and troughs. It’s functional and perfectly standard stuff, but lacks a standout scene for Teller to grasp and make his own.
As for the rest of the cast? Well, they are there, aren’t they? Jennifer Connelly slots into the hole-punched ‘reignited love interest’ gap as per regulations, Jon Hamm plays up his authoritative side by being the senior officer who just doesn’t stand for Maverick’s nonsense, dammit (plus, Ed Harris doubling up on that), and Glen Powell gets to be ‘cocky little ****’ antagonist. The rest of the young un’s fly the planes.
However thin the material may be and insubstantial the characters are there is still an impossible to miss point here. Top Gun: Maverick is breathtakingly fun. It surpasses the original due to its extraordinarily thrilling aerial cinematography that feels both graspable and real.
It honours the pluses of where it came from (a rarely seen Val Kilmer appearance is genuinely lovely) whilst putting into practice everything about action movies that Cruise and Co have learned over several decades worth of honing their craft.
No longer the Maverick then. Instead, the teacher. This is a movie polished to a gleaming shine and dazzling to behold. Feel the speed. Feel the thrills. Feel the roar of cinema in your gut.
You won’t need your emotions for this one. Just sit, slack jawed, and hold tight onto that popcorn as the afterburners roar through your living room.
Words by Mike Record
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