Although it isn’t strictly necessary to see the original film before sitting down with a bucket of popcorn to watch Top Gun: Maverick, anyone who takes the time to do so will immediately be struck with a sense of déja vu (and, for some others, like our parents, perhaps?) a visceral experience of nostalgia when the opening credits start rolling.
Tom Cruise dons the guise of hotshot navy fighter pilot Pete’ Maverick’ Mitchell once more, a role that has remained iconic since 1986. Considered one of the best naval aviators recruited by the US government, Maverick has been working as a test pilot for over 30 years, doing what he’s known for: pushing the boundaries of what’s possible between man, air, and machine. Valuing this lifestyle’s freedom, he has actively avoided promotion. However, warfare has changed, and, after receiving new orders, Maverick quickly realizes that he must change too to remain where he belongs.
Transferred back to Top Gun in California, Maverick is tasked with training the next generation of pilots – which includes Lieutenant Bradley’ Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his deceased partner Goose. As a result, Maverick can’t help but be caught up in the past, but it is the future that demands his attention. Otherwise, the mission he’s been training the recruits so hard to complete will be a failure, and he will fade into oblivion.
The very first thing that strikes you as an audience member is the music; everyone knows what’s about to happen as soon as the beat drops in Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”. Combined with stunning cinematography, abruptly switching from tight to vast shots, it lays the foundation for the story to unfold seamlessly. Though the film boasts many strong qualities, the soundtrack, which arguably made the first film into what it is today, does fall a bit short here.
The plot itself is more complex than the original, which is necessary, seeing as America, its priorities, and its international relationships have changed. However, it still follows the same trajectory as its predecessor, making the outcome somewhat predictable. That said, some moments will have you clinging to your seat with worry as the fates of these beloved characters hang in the balance.
Joining Cruise on this new outing is a host of fresh new talent as well as veterans like Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, and of course, the Iceman himself, Val Kilmer. Connelly’s Penny is a successful and grounded bar owner and Maverick’s past love. The always beautiful Connelly offers a much-needed lightness that contrasts the heaviness Maverick feels in his heart. As for the younger cast, Teller also holds his own opposite these acting veterans and kudos to the makeup and costuming team for achieving an impressive resemblance to Anthony Edward’s Goose. Monica Barbaro, who plays Phoenix, is a standout as the only female pilot surrounded by a bunch of alpha males; she holds her own and is arguably one of the most likeable characters.
Now say what you want about Tom Cruise, but it’s hard to deny his charisma and talent in front of the camera. Simply put, he delivers another great performance. It isn’t at all hard to tell that this role means a lot to him, and the emotional roller coaster that his character experiences parallels the bittersweet feeling that Cruise no doubt had while saying hello and goodbye to Maverick. Adding to the bittersweet feeling is Val Kilmer’s appearance. Kilmer’s brief but impactful cameo cannot go unmentioned. After battling throat cancer and losing his ability to speak, AI technology was incorporated to allow Kilmer to ‘talk’ in the film, which points to just how meaningful this project was to everyone involved.
Top Gun: Maverick is a solid action film, but it’s first and foremost a tribute to what has come and gone and a nod to the remarkable era in which it was born. At approximately 2 hours long, Top Gun: Maverick offers us a nice escape from another up and down year. Even though this film won’t change your life, it will definitely make you smile and cheer, and with everything going on, you can’t ask for more than that.
Top Gun: Maverick is currently playing in theatres.
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favourite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95