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Top Gun: Maverick Movie Review

Top Gun: Maverick (2022) movie poster
Top Gun: Maverick

Theatrical Release: May 27, 2022 / Running Time: 131 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Joseph Kosinski / Writers: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay); Peter Craig, Justin Marks (story)

Cast: Tom Cruise (Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell), Miles Teller (Lieutenant Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw), Jennifer Connelly (Penny Benjamin), Jon Hamm (Vice Admiral Beau "Cyclone" Simpson), Glen Powell (Lieutenant Jake "Hangman" Seresin), Lewis Pullman (Lieutenant Robert "Bob" Floyd), Ed Harris (Rear Admiral Chester "Hammer" Cain), Val Kilmer (Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky), Monica Barbaro (Lieutenant Natasha "Phoenix" Trace), Charles Parnell (Rear Admiral Solomon "Warlock" Bates), Jay Ellis (Lieutenant Reuben "Payback" Fitch), Danny Ramirez (Lieutenant Mickey "Fanboy" Garcia)< Jean Louias Kelly (Sarah Kazansky)


Top Gun was the top grossing film of 1986 and we're now as far removed from the height of '80s nostalgia as that period was from the era it celebrated.
But few successful ideas in Hollywood completely disappear and while it's taken longer than any of us could have imagined including its makers, who began developing it in 2010 and began filming in 2018, the sequel Top Gun: Maverick finally opens in theaters at the end of the month.

A Top Gun sequel in 2010 would have been untimely, but in 2022 it seems downright ludicrous. The techniques and topics of popcorn filmmaking have evolved considerably. Even in just the past dozen years, the industry has changed dramatically, with major power players toppled, diversity preached, and streaming emerging as the prevalent exhibition method. For all the efforts to embrace diversity both onscreen and behind the scenes, the product has somehow grown increasingly homogenous. Big budget filmmaking refers to little but superhero movies these days, most of them either belonging to or trying to outdo the extended shareholder fantasy that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

One of the few titans of industry with the gumption and wherewithal to continue making big movies for big screens is Top Gun's star Tom Cruise. Cruise may never win a competitive Oscar and his Q-score has surely taken a dive since his heyday in the '80s and '90s, but his love of movies can never be questioned or doubted. Cruise, who turns sixty this July, has refused to accept aging out of leading man roles. He is a brand onto himself, one that is now inseparable from the Mission: Impossible franchise, whose seventh and eighth installments are scheduled for the next two summers. No matter how much the M:I movies do for you, Cruise's commitment to the line and determination to elevate it with imaginative stunts no insurance company would sign off on is nothing short of admirable.

He brings a similar sensibility and repeat collaborators Christopher McQuarrie and David Ellison to Top Gun: Maverick. Cruise, McQuarrie, and Ellison produce this sequel along with Jerry Bruckheimer, returning to the saga that helped cemented his name and to the spotlight after a few quiet years since he mostly moved on from splashy Disney franchises. At the helm, meanwhile, is Joseph Kosinski, who directed Cruise in the enjoyable Oblivion and proved his ability to guide a sharp successor to a dated yet revered '80s flick in Tron: Legacy.

The collective experience of all these parties is a solid foundation and it goes a long way to bridging the considerable chasm between a mid-1980s blockbuster and a film intended to draw big crowds today. Maverick is well-versed in the original film's lore and respectful but not to excess.

Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is back in the air in "Top Gun: Maverick."

Cruise's navy test pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is exactly where you'd think he'd be, even if you probably haven't given the character that much thought. Maverick is still flying high and low, fast and furious, questioning and even defying authority when he sees fit.
The film's first setpiece sees the hotshot pushing himself to hit Mach 10 weeks ahead of schedule to show up "The Drone Ranger" (Ed Harris), a rear admiral who sees self-flying planes as the future.

Maverick's daring display gets him reassigned to the place colloquially known as Top Gun, the academy where he trained all those years ago. There, the not easily impressed Vice Admiral Simpson, call name "Cyclone" (Jon Hamm), tasks the accomplished and headstrong Maverick with teaching some distinguished young pilots on a perilous mission to destroy a distant and highly fortified facility where unsanctioned uranium refinement has been going on.

The specifics of the mission do not matter as much as the array of emotions Maverick experiences, having Rooster (a mustachioed Miles Teller), the son of his late, loyal wingman Goose, among those he's training. While we're repeatedly told how miniscule the margin of error is on this fairly vague undertaking is, the work is not so daunting as to prevent Maverick from reconnecting with an old flame in sweetly sassy single mother and bar owner Penny (Jennifer Connelly, pretty much the only actress who has been around since the '80s but can still fill the role of an almost age-appropriate love interest for Cruise). Their relationship feels a little bit like we're watching Top Gun 3 without having seen the second.

Maverick serves as a welcome reminder that Kosinski is a filmmaker of worth, even if his filmography has the air of a fizzle with none of his work ever hitting its commercial goals. This sequel pays plenty of homage to the blockbuster original while not being oblivious to the fact that it's quintissential 1980s corny cinema. Kosinski and the writers hit some similar beats but stop short of inviting ridicule. There's a touching cameo by Val Kilmer, whose real-life health issues (addressed in last year's worthwhile documentary Val) have been incorporated into the screenplay somewhat tastefully.

Thirty-six years later, Maverick (Tom Cruise) is still wooing women (Jennifer Connelly) with rides on the back of his motorcycle.

At the end of the day, this is a Tom Cruise Movie. The actor has pretty much abandoned working with high-minded artists, like his 1999 dramas with Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson. His pair of early 2000s sci-fi collaborations with Steven Spielberg and turn-of-the-millennium Cameron Crowe romances seem unlikely to grow in number anytime soon. I kind of doubt he'd return calls from Mike Myers or Ben Stiller these days. But when it comes to making a big, fun action movie with broad appeal, Cruise has still got the touch.

And, somehow, the look. Whether it's genes and the gym, plastic surgery, or subtle visual effects work, there are a number of times in Maverick when you're not sure if you're seeing the present-day, nearly 60-year-old Tom Cruise or the 23-year-old one from the original movie. The issue might be downright mystifying if you weren't more caught up in the actor's still-effective charismatic heroics.

Maverick impresses with its IMAX visuals, its enveloping sound design, and with its many seemingly authentic and practical aerial stunts. Having clung to a skyscraper and dangled from a plane as Ethan Hunt, Cruise is capable of doing anything in the name of entertainment and undoubtedly, that adds to its value. Top Gun: Maverick is a pretty clear and unlikely improvement upon the original film and posed to end up one of the summer's most broadly appealing movies that isn't connected to any cinematic universe but its own.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness The Extraordinary Weight of Massive Talent The Northman
Directed by Joseph Kosinski: Oblivion Tron: Legacy Only the Brave

Tom Cruise:
Top Gun The Color of Money Vanilla Sky
The Mummy Mission: Impossible - Fallout American Made

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Reviewed May 21, 2022.

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