Review: Top Gun – Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick movie poster

When someone says longingly: “They don’t make films like that anymore,” this is the sort of film they are talking about!

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell may not be in the Navy’s good books anymore, but when a deadly mission requires the best of the best to be even better, he is called in to teach them.

The late Tony Scott’s Top Gun is perhaps one of the most memorable movies of the 1980s, and that is saying something. It was immensely goofy at times, but it had a slickness and cool factor that was off the charts at many others. Namely, the absolutely banging theme “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, which remains a great example of lightning in a bottle; the track very nearly didn’t happen.

Guess how Top Gun: Maverick opens?

Ohhh yeah!

Director Joseph Kosinski is no strange to nostalgia, with his first feature film being Disney’s underrated sequel TRON: Legacy, nor is he a stranger to directing lead Tom Cruise since the (also underrated) sci-fi thriller Oblivion in 2013. But Maverick is not solely a nostalgia trip, it doesn’t throw itself at the masses with knowing winks, or references after references. It doesn’t even do what a lot of sequels-to-old-films do; overblow the action, sully the original in some way, or even do the “I’m too old for this!” schickt. No, Top Gun: Maverick is a straight up honourable sequel.

Tom Cruise in Top Gun Maverick
No CGI. All in-camera!

This film achieves all of this by being straight to the point; the screenplay is tight and does not go on frivolous detours or pointless sub plots. We are given the objective: a dangerous mission to destroy a uranium processing plant that is situated in a near-impossible location. The story revolves around the training of the new generation of Top Guns to tackle, and hopefully survive, this perilous task. The past is here to haunt our hero, however, as one of the top pilots is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller) the son of the late Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, Pete’s old wingman. The tension is high between these two, and risks breaking any sort of team dynamic required for the mission.

Kudos firstly towards Miles Teller, who impeccably blends into the role as the son of Anthony Edwards’ character in the original film. Solid performance there. Him and several other notable names are in there, giving anyone who grew up in the 80s and even 90s some cause for celebration: Ed Harris being the perfect hard-ass, and Jennifer Connelly as the old flame of Pete’s.

The story is streamlined, the characters have straight-forward arcs of development. Some might call this predictable, but others would argue it is refreshing in this day and age. You can sit back and enjoy the spectacle. And what a spectacle it is.
Tom Cruise clearly provided heft during the production of the movie; his involvement was under the requirement that the action not be completed with CGI, and that real aircraft doing real stunt work would be used. All of the in-cockpit footage during scenes was real, requiring all of the cast commit to extensive training against g-forces. Given the nature of this level of filming, the actors had to film themselves via on-board cameras! The level of commitment, and lack of stunt-people and experts taking the place of actors, is stunning and was definitely worth the effort.
That, and the film being supported by the Department of Defence itself, allowing the use of hardware and to film on sites. While you could say that Michael Bay gets to show off military hardware… at least this film actually shows it off genuinely!

Miles Teller in Top Gun Maverick
Miles Teller, Monica Barbaro, and Glen Powell are the new blood.

A lot of praise, but there isn’t much to say negatively about it! The final act feels almost staggered, as if there were multiple endings. It still didn’t break the film’s predictable nature, despite obviously being an attempt to. That really is all that can be critiqued about the movie.

Kudos as well for the appearance of Val Kilmer as Iceman. It is heart-breaking to see such an energetic and charismatic man in such a condition, but the film-makers giving him an opportunity to be on the big screen again was a delight.
The film does have a lot of sentiment between all the testosterone, which might catch some fans of the original off-guard! It is very clear as well that Tom Cruise is having a great time reliving and continuing this character’s story.
The film’s tone is a lot more earnest than the original, which makes sense; you cannot expect 80s stylings to fly (no pun intended) nowadays. But it isn’t at all dour, either. There are plenty of moments of levity and humour throughout.

It is, without doubt, a film that should be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. Kosinski and Cruise have done exceptional work here, capturing what hard-graft work can look like on the big screen, without CGI bells and whistles replacing everything in sight.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Additional Marshmallows: ScreenX cinemas (theatres that have three screens, with two providing peripheral views) actually provide additional content in Top Gun: Maverick, as Kosinski had three cameras within the cockpits!

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