PETE Mitchell, callsign Maverick (Tom Cruise), has spent over 30 years as one of the Navy’s top aviators, doing exactly what he is best at – flying planes.
But it’s a new era, and the top brass ground Maverick when disobeys orders to test pilot a new high tech plane; that is, until his old friend Iceman (Val Kilmer) steps in, and selects him to go back to his old stomping ground of Top Gun.
At the Naval Flight Academy, Maverick is tasked by Admiral Simpson (Jon Hamm) with a mission.
An Iranian nuclear weapons base is on the verge of readiness, buried in a crater, surrounded by SAMs and fifth gen fighters. They have three weeks to destroy the base before the radioactive materials arrive, and the flight in and out is thought to be impossible.
Maverick has to teach a new generation, one so reliant on technology, the skills he has learnt in a lifetime, in order to not just complete the mission, but survive it. In doing so, he will have to reckon with the mistakes, regrets and memories from his past, not least of which is his relationship with his old wingman Goose, whose son Rooster (Miles Teller) is in his class.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick is the sort of movie that they just don’t make anymore, and you can feel it right from the opening credits.
As the Paramount logo fades, a beautiful grainy sunrise-over-the-ocean shot is punctured by the distinctly not modern font displaying Miles Teller’s name, and the dulcet, rockabilly tones of Kenny Loggins classic Highway To The Danger Zone plays, the heart pumps a little bit faster. It’s right here that you realize you’re feeling something you haven’t felt in the cinema for years – genuine excitement.
Thus commences the 2-hour 11 minute magnum opus that is Top Gun: Maverick. From a plot perspective, it’s a genuinely ingenious way to bring back the magic of the first, while modernizing it for the modern era (and Cruise’s advancing age).
The dialogue is slick for the most part, with a bunch of classically cheesy one-liners thrown in for good measure, but always aware of itself. It’s also surprisingly affecting in its emotionality.
Scenes with Kilmer, who famously had his vocal box removed due to cancer, bring a tear to the eye, and Kosinski isn’t tokenistic with his representation of the actor; instead using him to deliver one of the best scenes in the movie.
The cast across the board is uniformly excellent. The newcomers looking for a place in the squad are, due to numbers and by necessity, largely one-dimensional, but that’s ok. The harder edges from the first installment that may not play well in the modern era, like any overt bullying, are rounded off without losing the chemistry, zest and rivalry.
Miles Teller, who strikingly resembles Anthony Edwards Goose from the first movie, is absolutely fantastic, re-cementing his status as one of the best young actors on the scene after a few years of missteps. Jennifer Connolly is also spectacular, bringing some real vintage vibes to the piece.
Ultimately, this is the Tom Cruise show though, and it doesn’t disappoint. This is Cruise on his A-Game, his best performance in years. There’s a joy that shines through in his performance; a little smirk constantly playing behind the eyes, that seems to say to the audience that he, too, feels what they feel; the joyous nostalgia of being back in this world.
The simple pleasures of a time gone by, when all you needed was a cracking soundtrack, a couple of planes flying around, and a game of shirtless beach volleyball to have a hit movie, instead of the modern requirement for hundreds of millions of dollars of CGI.
Cruise is the lifeblood of this film, and indeed in the resurrecting of this character, and the delivery of a film that literally has to be seen in cinemas, he is the lifeblood of the modern theatrical experience.
Top Gun: Maverick is the sort of film that, when first discussed, seemed like a terrible idea. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that surely, there’s no way they can do anything but harm the legacy of the original.
Which is why it’s such a joy that, after you leave the cinema, having witnessed heart, pathos, some incredible action sequences, and a whole heap of sunset-drenched 80’s nostalgia in bomber jackets, you find that they’ve absolutely succeeded.
This is the perfect sequel; perhaps even better than the original.