Reel Reviews | Top Gun: Maverick

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Tom Cruise goes all out in the oft-delayed, highly anticipated sequel to the 1986 classic testosterone-driven action film in, Top Gun: Maverick.

After more than thirty years, Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise), the most decorated captain in the Navy, is working as a test pilot. True to his nature (and the reason why he is still a captain) Maverick is still disobeying orders and risking his career. Thanks to an assist from a devoted commodore and a perilous nuclear threat, Maverick is given instructions to report to the Top Gun academy where, as an instructor, he must train a group of twelve pilots who have aced the academy to complete a mission that is near suicide. There are two problems. One is Cyclone (Jon Hamm), a commander who has no love for Maverick or his tactics. The second and most troubling is the inclusion of Rooster (Miles Teller) the son of his former gunner, Goose.

Written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie from a story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks based upon characters created by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., Top Gun: Maverick stars Cruise, Hamm, and Teller along with Jennifer Connelly, Lewis Pullman, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer. With a cast of producers including Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Cruise, the film is directed by Joseph Kosinski.

Kosinski, who directed Cruise in Oblivion, on the surface seems much of a non-factor in this film because the film looks and feels almost exactly like the film that Tony Scott directed over thirty-five years ago. There is even an “in memoriam” dedication at the end of the film (Scott died in 2012). Top Gun: Maverick starts with almost a scene for scene re-creation of the first film that lasts through the first half of the first act of the film. To his credit, Kosinski does a great job of capturing the feel and essence of the original movie.

Thirty-six years ago, a movie called Top Gun hit the big screen, swept up the world, and made a superstar out of a young actor named Tom Cruise. This film is a direct homage to that film. From the opening credits that state the film is a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer film (Simpson died in 1996) to the return of Harold Faltermeyer to more topless sports, this film is just a redux of the original. The only thing that is missing is Berlin’s haunting 80’s classic “Take My Breath Away” which has been replaced by a Lady Gaga song that is good but not quite as powerful.

But in everything else, this movie is just as good if not better than the original. The action is more intense with the addition of a couple of scenes from Stealth (they could use Stealth because who would remember it, right?) and a Star Wars-style suicide mission that is only missing the entrance of a Darth Vader attack. With the number of writers, this film has they could have been a little more original but when your film is a sequel, who really cares? Honestly, no one is here for the story so we get straight to the action (and topless sports).

There is a very interesting and inspiring scene in the movie with Val Kilmer. In 2017, Kilmer underwent the last of many surgeries for throat cancer which included two tracheotomies and reduced his voice to a whispery rasp. According to reports, Kilmer jumped at the chance to return to his role as “Iceman” when Cruise entreated him. What followed was a very special and tender moment between two consummate professionals.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and some strong language, Top Gun: Maverick is a wonderfully executed comeback for the franchise. It is very entertaining, giving you all the “feels” of the original and despite missing a few beats, it creates a soundtrack all of its own. If you feel the need, speed to the theaters and see this one, in IMAX.

Top Gun: Maverick is in theaters on May 27.

Grade: B