After a two-year wait, Top Gun: Maverick has finally hit the big screen, and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s one of the rare sequels that improves upon every single flaw the original had, and more than exceeds expectations in the process. Fans of Tony Scott’s 1986 movie will be satisfied by its visual callbacks, and those (like me) who weren’t too big on the first movie will have their minds blown within minutes.
After an opening credits sequence that perfectly recreates the spirit of the first film’s opening scene, with Harold Faltermeyer’s impeccable score and Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone blasting us back into the ‘80s, we reunite with Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) as he’sabout to take off on a prototype jet. It’s in that moment that director Joseph Kosinski and screenwriters Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie pull audiences in through a spectacular action scene that signals some of the more death-defying content the movie will bring during its climax.
Maverick is asked to join the Top Gun program again after a request from Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), which involves him training a group of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilots to bomb some obscure uranium facility on an unnamed place somewhere in the sea. The specifics don’t necessarily matter, because we don’t watch Top Gun for the plot, we watch it for the dogfighting, the glistening beach volleyball (in this case, beach football), the training exercises, and the camaraderie between Maverick and the crew.
During the training exercises, Maverick has a rather tumultuous relationship with Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw who died in the first movie on Maverick’s watch. Of course, Rooster blames Maverick for his father’s death, but the rift between the two goes far deeper than that.
The dramatic tension between the two is fascinating, with Teller being especially good alongside Cruise, who has never lost his charm, even though it’s been 36 years since the first movie came out. Turning 60 in July, Cruise has an ageless charisma and has perfected his flair for showmanship — he doesn’t even need to do much to impress.
His comedic timing is impeccable during a few scenes involving Jennifer Connelly’s Penny Benjamin, Maverick’s main love interest. Both of them have amazing chemistry together, rekindling an old love they once had and reminding themselves just how important they were to one another. Cruise is the only actor who’s been able to deliver pure entertainment in a way that no other modern star has —he’s our generation’s Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. The movie doesn’t even need to be good: if Cruise is starring in it and gives his full commitment, it will make loads of money.
Cruise doesn’t only impress with his dramatic and comedic skills, but his stunt work is also unparalleled. It’s particularly impressive to see him perform all of these air stunts for real: flipping the jet around like it’s a toy and positioning it in ways that not even the best fighter pilots could ever do. And all of it was done practically, so much so that Kosinski and cinematographer Claudio Miranda inserted six IMAX cameras on the planes to showcase Cruise’s dedication on the biggest canvas possible. The only instances of CGI we see are the explosions, machine guns, and missile hits. The rest is all practical and is the most mind-blowing thing you’ll see on an IMAX screen all year.
Without giving anything away, the movie methodically builds up towards a climax that is pure fever dream—my mind was racing from the start to the end of the action scene, trying to figure out how Cruise pulled this maneuver off without crashing. It must be seen to be believed and saying more would mean spoiling the fun, but let’s just say it’ll make your jaw drop multiple times.
Top Gun: Maverick is another great addition to Cruise’s impressive resumé of incredible action films–ones that are primed to be experienced on the biggest screen possible for maximum effect. It’s also another incredible film to add to Joseph Kosinski’s resumé, who is one of the most underappreciated genre filmmakers working today.
His filmography has been nothing but pure masterpieces, and he’s made his finest film yet in Top Gun: Maverick, one that celebrates the best of Scott’s original, and delivers better action sequences, tighter (and more impactful) emotional drama, and top-tier performances from Cruise, Teller, and Connelly, who all bring their A-game to the film. Were Scott alive today, he would be proud of not only the legacy that Top Gun endured, but of the sequel as one of the greatest achievements in modern blockbuster filmmaking, and a perfect reminder of the big screen’s cathartic, electrifying power.
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Tom Cruise reminds us all why he is one of the greatest entertainers to have ever graced the silver screen in Top Gun: Maverick, the rare sequel that more than exceeds the original in every conceivable way.
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