Top Gun: Maverick Review – Tom Cruise Soars in Instant Classic High-Octane Spectacle

The unlikeliest of bedfellows, Scott Morrison and Tom Cruise share a key goal in 2022: Both are chasing successful sequels.

While the matter of the election remains up in the air, the votes are in on the follow-up to the beloved jet-setting actioner Top Gun (1986), Top Gun: Maverick (and whoa is it a helluva ride).

Following the time passed since the first film, we are reacquainted with overweening test pilot Captain Peter “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) on an Air Force base somewhere in the Mojave Desert. The warm glow of sunset – a visual motif that screams Americana – hangs over the film like a filter. As Maverick so romantically fine tunes his prized beast, a vintage plane that feels somewhat out of place in the age of modern machinery and AI, the viewer can grasp Maverick’s connection to past and present.

Having been called back into Top Gun, the ‘elite school’ for training the top one per cent of Navy pilots, Cruise must reckon with the mistakes of the past to train a series of lively recruits to take down a threat manufacturing nuclear weaponry (the nationality of this threat is, rightfully, never disclosed). Maverick does all this while mending past relationships, both romantically (Penny, Jennifer Connelly) and personally (son of a Goose, Rooster (Miles Teller), and dazzling the screen with some iconic wearing of sunglasses.

Danger has never looked so cool.

Taking the reins of director, Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy (2010), Oblivion (2013)) musters an exhilarating spectacle of sight and sound, even if the human components render perfunctory. The relationship aspects are plumped with the levels of cheese appropriate for a crowd-pleaser, particularly one with its roots implanted in the ‘80s (where there was no shortage of high-strung dramas). While Kosinski does fiddle with the emotional dial, he keeps the movie at a steady altitude, never allowing the sentiment to weigh down the breezy mood.

References to the previous film are smoothly maneuvered, blending naturally with the story without feeling too aggressively pandering. The previous film’s perception as a homo-erotic military commercial feels less applicable here, with the film one-upping its predecessor with the apparition of a plot.

Cruise and fellow Mission: Impossible series collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (who serves as a producer) have set the bar high in Hollywood regarding improving perceptions of stunt work as being more than just CG riddled boofhead antics. They have shone the brightest of lights on its balletic qualities. In Top Gun: Maverick, they produce arguably their finest work, crafting exhilarating aerial sequences that are impeccably cut together (props going to the smooth editing work of longtime Mission: Impossible editor, Eddie Hamilton).

How Kosinski and team capture the mercurial antics inside of the jets – allowing enough space to show the vastness of the sky and the dizzying heights at which they risk falling – enhances the intensity of the scene, particularly when our heroes are facing their most menacing of enemies. This is further empowered by the majestic cinematography work of Claudio Miranda, with his earlier visuals in the film rivalling that of Linus Sandgren (First Man (2018)) with respect to visual excellence.

You will need to hold onto your seats in this one, folks.

Alas, Top Gun: Maverick rides high off its sense of personality, with much of the humour of the 1986 classic expressed highlighting the machismo of the time. While this satisfying display of cutting men down to size for their arrogance remains (Glen Powell plays punchable with smarmy aplomb), the film opens itself up to a world that exists outside of its white bro-ism thanks to its talented and diverse cast. This being said, the film seldom shines the spotlight away from Cruise and Teller, with hopes of future instalments exploring the world of characters introduced.

In true ‘80s fashion, the film’s music deviates back and forth between soundtrack and score, with this reviewer wishing the film had leant further into the head-banging, rock-and-roll charm of its predecessor. On occasion, the boisterousness of the score and soundtrack competes with the sound design in action scenes, often conflating the two to clunky effect. This is an infrequent blip in an otherwise fine score that evokes the sound of dedication and triumph. Lady Gaga offers the leading song of the film; an audio motif that changes in arrangement throughout the film. It is a catchy song, and one the film builds towards in its pure balladic glory in a pleasing conclusion, providing the payoff we never knew we needed.

The world has waited an era for a Top Gun sequel, with Cruise and co rewarding patience with a stunning, spectacle laden actioner loaded with pageantry. While many things have changed in the thirty plus years since we last saw Maverick, the skies remain a haven for the bold and the beautiful.

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly

Writers: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, (story by Peter Craig, Justin Marks; based on characters by Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.)

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