Director: Joseph Kosinski
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jean Louisa Kelly, Glen Powell, Danny Ramirez, Jay Ellis, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Charles Parnell, Jon Hamm, Bashir Salahuddin, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Ed Harris
Running Length: 131 minutes
Synopsis: 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.
Review: Top Gun: Maverick belongs to a rare breed of movies – the ones where the sequel is better than the original. While we can look back at the original Top Gun fondly through the rosy lens of nostalgia, it isn’t that great of a movie in all honesty. Tom Cruise was at the cusp of superstardom at the time, and the film banked very much on his charisma and good looks to carry the movie. The film had very little going for it apart from Tom and the very authentic aerial action sequences, and anyone who had rewatched the film in preparation for Top Gun: Maverick might be surprised to (re)discover how banal the first film was. That said, the film remains a pivotal one for my childhood, having seen it many times on terrestrial TV as reruns, and boasting a soundtrack with songs that have truly withstood the test of time.
Flash forward some 36 years later, and after several delays due to the pandemic, we finally get to see Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen. First things first – this is a movie that needs to be experienced on the big screen, and viewing it anywhere else (for the first time at least) is doing yourself a disservice. Secondly, while anyone who’s watched the first Top Gun (and remember it) will certainly get more out of the movie, with its numerous callbacks and “easter eggs”, it is certainly not a prerequisite. Top Gun: Maverick successfully strikes a balance between selling nostalgia and attempting to appeal to younger audiences who may not even be born when the original film was released.
Top Gun: Maverick is about as classic an action blockbuster as you can get, and there are absolutely no surprises to be had in how the plot unfolds. This is not a bad thing, since a classic blockbuster done well is still a great cinematic experience, and this is definitely the case for Top Gun: Maverick. The aerial dogfights are still grounded in practical effects, and the action sequences in the film are breathtaking and realistic in a way that is very rare in current-day cinema, where CGI reigns supreme. The entire third act of the film is edge-of-your-seat thrilling, and even though it does almost go off the rails Fast & Furious style near the end, it’s still immensely satisfying as a cinematic experience.
With Tom Cruise putting in a much more nuanced and well-rounded performance than in the previous film and still looking fantastic for his age, he is an easy protagonist to root for, and this is easily his best work in years, if not decades (I think it would take a lot for Mission: Impossible to trump what has been achieved here). However, the same dimensionality can’t really be said of anyone else in the cast, since they exist only as plot devices (yes, even Miles Teller’s Rooster and Jennifer Connelly as Penny, the token love interest). There is a great, tender sequence between Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise that is very well-handled, and it’s also refreshing to see that the film’s sole sex scene (if you can even call it that) is one that is grounded in reality and not excessively romanticized like most films do.
While the span of time that has passed between the two Top Gun films will certainly not be in the franchise’s favour, anyone willing to give this film a chance will likely find themselves entirely enjoying the viewing experience. The film has an unfortunately short runway before other summer blockbusters will take over the cineplexes, but this is genuinely one of the best non-superhero blockbusters that have been released in recent years.
Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)