Film review by Jason Day of Top Gun: Maverick, the 2022 sequel to the 1986 US Navy action blockbuster. Tom Cruise returns in the title role, this time with Jennifer Connolly and Miles Teller as co-stars. Joseph Kosinski directs.
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After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) continues as a courageous test pilot and dodging the promotion that would take him away from his ‘need for speed’. When word reaches the military about a new and unauthorised uranium enrichment plant, Maverick is called upon to advise and lead a group of young pilots to bomb the facility before it ‘goes live’.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
You think up there, you’re dead, believe me.Capt. Peter ‘Maverick’ Mitchell.
It’s been nearly 40 years since the first Top Gun walloped onto international screens and got the box office tills ringing off their hooks and about the same time since I first saw it…but I still snigger when I hear Rear Admiral mentioned!
Star Tom Cruise has also aged and (surprise, surprise!) exceedingly well. The star of umpteen Mission Impossible movies in which he famously performs as many of his stunts as he can, he’s always been in tip-top condition but perhaps concerned at being surrounded by young, fit actors as the flyers he must upskills (particularly during one beach scene where they play football topless – the boys, not the girls), the man is seriously ripped.
He’s probably a lot more grown-up as well.
Aside from an impressive physique better than most men young enough to be his son (such as I!), it’s good to see that the character has been allowed to mellow with the years. Pete is less the hot-headed, potentially dangerous maverick and more the seasoned, innovative professional not afraid of a challenge.
He even gets called an ‘old man’ by the younger flyers who unceremoniously dump him outside when he can’t pay for a round.
It’s a doozy role for Cruise to play, geared toward his unique brand of popcorn spectacular movie character and he glides effortlessly through it.
Maverick’s original love interest Kelly McGillis (now 64) has more or less quit the Hollywood limelight. These days concentrates on TV and small-scaled movies, but has spoken about how she wasn’t even approached for a role in Maverick and wasn’t especially bothered. This time the romance is provided by the more than capable Jennifer Connolly (51), whose role is purely disposable.
The supporting cast is the most interesting as female pilots (Monica Barbaro as ‘Phoenix’) have joined the ranks. There’s no explanation or exposition about this in the script, and this is not just a ‘woke’ addition. Time has moved on, and Phoenix is just one of the ‘gang’ and obviously respected by her peers, who instinctively follow her and listen to and discuss her comments about the mission ahead.
The script is shorn of the locker room badinage that made the original movie cringeworthy. Phoenix only has to deal with one slightly misogynistic comment from ‘Hangman’ (Glen Powell). She swiftly puts him back in his place, supported by her colleagues, and the story continues without missing a beat.
The writing also allows for a poignant reunion between Maverick and ‘Ice Man’ (Val Kilmer), Pete’s nemesis in the original film. Kilmer, stricken with throat cancer and following surgery, is all but unable to speak so instead lets his eyes do the talking. Jokingly he types “Who is the better pilot?” on his computer. Cruise humorously responds “Let’s not ruin the moment.”
I was also glad to see one of my favourite modern day film actors – Miles Teller – in this film. He plays the son of Maverick’s pal Goose (Anthony Edwards) who was killed in the first movie. No one does barely-repressed male anger and frustration better than Teller, it’s a shame the movie doesn’t focus more on obvious, non-Xerox moments for him like the barroom ‘Great Balls of Fire’ singalong.
Going back to the subject of stunt work, incredibly the cast perform some of their own flying. Cruise had them all enrolled in a three-month, aerial boot camp to make sure the cockpit scenes were as real as possible.
And this is what makes Maverick such a good film. Story-wise, it’s a repeat of the previous movie, but this time the flying scenes and stunts are seriously ramped up. They are as ripped as the leading man.
Kominski – who helmed another splendid update, Tron: Legacy (2010) – thus delivers some cracking action culminating in a brief but edge-of-the-seat mission scene.
The movie has already earned just over $1bn at the box office, way more than its predecessor. Given this return it’s likely a third instalment will be on the way; if it lives up to the technical quality of Maverick, I’ll happily queue up to see it.
See the official trailer for more (link correct at time of publication).
Cast & credits
Director: Joseph Kominski. 2hr 10 min/130 min. Paramount Pictures/Skydance Media/Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Tencent Pictures. (12a).
Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Cruise, David Ellison, Christopher McQuarrie.
Writers: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie.
Camera: Claudio Miranda.
Music: Lorne Balfe, Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, Hans Zimmer.
Sets: Jeremy Hindle.
Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connolly, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Bashir Salahuddin, Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Tellis, Danny Ramirez, Glenn Powell, Ed Harris.