Top Gun: Maverick (AU- M/UK - 12A/US - PG-13)

In A Word: Exhilarating

Top Gun Maverick

Tom Cruise plays Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. PICTURE: Scott Garfield. © 2019 Paramount Pictures Corporation. All rights reserved.

In 1986 Top Gun shot to the top of the box office and launched Tom Cruise into superstardom. Thirty-six years later, Top Gun: Maverick sticks to the same winning formula, fast planes, big egos, sappy romance and melodramatic machoism. 

Cruise returns as Pete Mitchell. As his nick name “Maverick” suggests, he is insubordinate and reckless, with a knack for antagonising his superiors. Nevertheless, Maverick is a uniquely gifted pilot who is tasked with training a squadron to fly a dangerous mission to destroy a heavily defended nuclear facility. Among the trainees is “Rooster” (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s deceased co-pilot “Goose” from the first movie. This twist injects a dose of angst, guilt and rivalry to the otherwise formulaic plot.

"Top Gun: Maverick manages to take everything that made the 36-year-old original a classic and revitalises it with style for the modern cinema."

Jennifer Connelly replaces Kelly McGillis as the love interest in this sequel. The love story in the original Top Gun was built on the sexual tension of forbidden love between a student and teacher, rising to a crescendo of iconic 80’s music that consummated the romance. Connelly and Cruise don’t achieve quite the same level of chemistry this time and the romance feels like an obligatory part of a formula rather than an integrated plot point.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of homages to the first Top Gun. The opening sequence is almost a re-creation of the first film. Iconic topless beach volleyball is now topless beach football. There are repeats of the same gags, many of the same songs and the much anticipated return of Ice Man (Val Kilmer) to the screen. 

While the nostalgia will please fans of the original, the most noticeable difference is the vast improvement in the cinematography and visual effects of the flight sequences. The flying is visceral, nail biting and exhilarating. The low altitude maneuvers give a sense of speed and danger, and the dogfights are more intense and dangerous than ever. Cameras placed in the actual jets that were flown captured the authentic expressions of the actors as they flew the planes.

The final mission borrows elements directly out of Star Wars to create a sequence that is incredulous, but completed accepted because it looks cool. The longer the film goes on, the more it stretches believability. Despite the fact that the mission defies logic, however, it remains thoroughly enjoyable. The whole experience is kept afloat by the charisma of its stars, the stunning scenes of aerial combat and the yearning to see the reconciliation between our heroes.

The emotional core of this film, lies in Maverick’s rocky relationship with the orphaned Rooster. Torn between a promise to protect him and giving Rooster his dream of flying, Maverick struggles to be the father figure that neither of them had. Ultimately healing comes through sacrifice, as they are both willing to lay down their lives for one another, the very definition of love.

Top Gun: Maverick is yet another star vehicle for Cruise. Nearly every scene is about him. He is the centre of attention, the hero of every moment and the object of both admonition and adoration. He is better than the best of the best, and the plot will constantly remind you of his greatness. 

Cruise has somehow managed to maintain his youthful looks and charm despite pushing 60 years of age. Whatever his secret to eternal youth is, it has rubbed off on the film. Top Gun: Maverick manages to take everything that made the 36-year-old original a classic and revitalises it with style for the modern cinema.