Home Movie Reviews ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ – Review
‘Top Gun: Maverick’ – Review

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ – Review


In 1986 Tony Scott and Tom Cruise changed the landscape of blockbuster cinema with Top Gun. It wasn’t just a movie, but a cultural moment and its legacy inspired a whole generation of what it meant to be cool, and showed what blockbuster cinema could deliver to audiences.

Now 36 years later, Cruise returns as renegade Naval aviator Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick and this is a film that pushes the cinematic experience right to the edge. And it’ll have your heart thumping with adrenaline thanks to the roar of an F-18 at full velocity.

After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of TOPGUN graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.”

Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.

Returning back to the flight deck thirty-six years after the original Top Gun, is Hollywood megastar Tom Cruise and time has not hampered this man’s enthusiasm for this story. With Top Gun: Maverick, we find Cruise back in the cockpit once more as ace Naval aviator Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell who, following the original film’s events, has continued to push the envelope as a Naval test pilot always seeking out grander challenges to overcome. But by a twist of fate, Maverick finds himself back at the famed school of dog-fighting in Fightertown USA, and in command of a whole new generation of pilots. And this mission is deeply personal for him. From start to finish this is Cruise in full control of the Top Gun cinematic experience and he makes sure that the action is epic, in-camera and that the G’s are real. Cruise promised audiences a bigger than life sequel and the ultimate cinematic experience. And he absolutely delivers on his promise.

Finding a collaborator in his Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski, these two men set out to present the blockbuster of all blockbusters. And they full-heartedly succeed, because Top Gun: Maverick brings all the fun, action and nostalgia of the original film, while also taking it to an incredible new height. Regarded as one of the best all-around visually gifted filmmakers working today, Kosinski’s films always have a unique look and polish to their imagery and his mission here is to put audiences right into the heart of the action. And he absolutely succeeds in doing this. Working together with Cruise, and with the support of the US Navy, Kosinski is able to film from inside the cockpit of active F-18 Super Hornet jets and the aerial action and photography of Top Gun: Maverick is utterly stunning to witness. You feel the pull and friction of 10G burns and the high-speed velocity of these next-generation fighters at max throttle will throw audiences right back into their seats.

Working hand in hand with the aerial action and high-speed turbulence of Top Gun: Maverick’s visuals are its heavy and dramatic story, and this is a film that will take audiences by surprise. While it is a quintessential, popcorn-munching rollercoaster of a ride, it’s a film of incredible depth and sincerity and examines one hotshot’s passage through time, and the inevitable change that we all come face-to-face within this lifetime. While he still might be a renegade who is constantly searching for the edge, Cruise’s Maverick is a man who now feels the responsibility of the present, and the past that has shaped it. Still carrying the guilt of the death of his best friend Goose with him, Maverick is a man who now strives to protect and mentor those new recruits under his command and there’s a deep sincerity in his actions throughout the film.

What we see in Cruise’s performance in Top Gun: Maverick is not the cocky, whizz kid pilot of the late 80s, but a more mature, confident expert who knows how the rules are broken, and more importantly what is needed to actually win out in the real world, life and death stakes of pure wartime combat. Maverick has no illusions about the dangers that lie ahead in this mission that he has been instructed to command, and we see him wrestling with some very heavy choices. What we get from Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick is a very different side to Maverick than what I think audiences were expecting. It’s a fuller performance, shaped by age, experience and the passing of time and Cruise plays a radically different side to Maverick this time around. But he’s still the same quintessential character and he takes audiences for a hell of a spin in this blockbuster.

Maverick’s actions in the sequel chiefly concern the presence of the young, brash and hotheaded Lt. Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw, the son of his late RIO and best friend ‘Goose’, and from the first moments that these two come into contact, well, it’s not a very happy reunion. Maverick and Rooster have a bitter history with one another, and where Maverick has tried to be a father figure to the impulsive Rooster, this angry young man has cast him aside at every turn. Taking on the emotional Rooster is Miles Teller, and he does a great job in standing toe-to-toe with Cruise. While Rooster carries a great resentment towards Maverick, their relationship is far more complex than we first see at mere face value and as the narrative unfolds we see an interesting ‘father/son’ relationship build between the two of them that is shaped by the past that Maverick still holds onto as he attempts to give this young man a future worth living for.

Alongside Roster, Top Gun: Maverick also sees a brand new group of young TOP GUN recruits who are pulled together for the film’s TOP SECRET mission. As the antagonistic and arrogant Lt. Jake “Hangman” Seresin, Glen Powell marks himself out as a cocky flyboy who seems to have all the answers and is very happy to not be a team player; then there’s the capable and edgy Lt. Natasha “Phoenix” Trac, played by Monica Barbaro, who completely holds her own in both the cockpit and testosterone-soaked environment of the TOP GUN school, and finally, the film finds a good dose of comedy thanks to Lt. Robert “Bob” Floyd, played by Lewis Pullman, and his quirky performance leads to plenty of laughs. Noted actor Jon Hamm brings a hard-edged seniority to the film as Rear Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson, a former TOP GUN ace who doesn’t like Maverick’s rule-breaking and he makes for a great foil for Cruise. While Charles Parnell has Maverick’s back as Rear Admiral Solomon “Warlock” Bates.

It wouldn’t be Top Gun without a good dash of romance, and this time around Maverick rekindles the spark with one-time flame, and the ‘Admiral’s Daughter’, Penny Benjamin, who is played by the delightful Jennifer Connolly. And she’s an absolute knockout in this one. Care-free, high-spirited and ready to take Maverick for a ride, Connolly’s Penny is the woman who’s there for this renegade pilot when he needs it and inspires him to take his command and his pilots to a whole new level. Cruise and Connolly have an effortless chemistry together and you feel the deep love that exists between Maverick and Penny, and it’s a romance that sparks one hell of a flame. Penny has a special significance for the film’s narrative and when the chips are down and Maverick’s back is against the wall, Penny’s there for him and is able to inspire him to be the best, just like he’s supposed to be.

And finally, in one of the film’s most heartfelt appearances, Val Kilmer returns to the big screen as former Top Gun champion, Maverick’s one-time rival turned friend and now Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. And his appearance is sure to make you well up with emotion. Paralleling Kilmer’s own real-life illness, Iceman is now battling cancer and has lost the use of his voice, but not his belief in Maverick. Watching Kilmer and Cruise together on screen is an incredibly raw and heart-moving moment for the film, and Kilmer shows incredible bravery and complete control of his craft as he once again steps into the boots of one of his most quintessential characters. The scene that is shared between these two characters is a deeply moving moment and you have to witness it to truly experience the deep feelings that exist not only between Iceman and Maverick but Kilmer and Cruise themselves.

From beginning to end, Top Gun: Maverick is an utter thrill ride and gives audiences everything they could want out of a blockbuster. Matching the nostalgia of the original, with a new, rock n’roll energy for today, whether you’re a fan of the original, or are brand new to the world of Maverick, you’re going to be impressed. The film’s desire to be a true testament to the power of aviation is on full display on screen, and the action is pulse-pounding and awe-inspiring to witness. Through Cruise and Kosinski’s commitment to the cinematic experience, audiences are put front and centre into the action, and there’s no time for vertigo as Cruise takes audiences to the edge of the stratosphere at supersonic speeds. This twisting, contorting aerial action is a blast to witness up on the big screen, and Top Gun: Maverick is a film that was meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible. It firmly is cinema at its coolest and damn will you get a rush of adrenaline with this one.

Top Gun: Maverick is blockbuster cinema at its coolest and is a pure expression of what cinema is meant to be. Packed out with drama, action, romance and fun, there’s no better movie to get audiences back into cinemas together and enjoy the raw energy and sensation that only blockbuster cinema can deliver. It is Tom Cruise’s gift to audiences, the US Navy and the medium of the movies itself, and you’re sure to have an utter blast with this one. It’s just AWESOME!

Image: Paramount Pictures