Pete Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the limits as a bold test pilot while evading the progression in rank that would ground him after more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators.
It’s no surprise that Tom Cruise would want another go at Top Gun. It’s an excruciatingly cheesy product of the 1980s with rampant homoeroticism (it seeps from every scene, much like sweat trickling down the characters’ chiseled bodies playing volleyball) as the sole source of amusement aside from the practical airborne effects. The romantic element in Top Gun was largely ineffective, and the plot as a whole was somewhat uninteresting. It mainly focused on expert pilots learning at the eponymous institution for a trophy before going on a short mission during the last 10 minutes.
Tom Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is now a US Air Force major. (Directed by Joseph Kosinski, who utilized an uncredited Tom Cruise sci-fi feature called Oblivion and a screenwriting team made up of Mission: Impossible series collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, Ehren Kruger, and Eric Warren Singer.) The film’s story occurs approximately 32 years after Top Gun (36 if you go by movie release dates), focusing on a wiser, more mature Pete with more grounded and restrained charm and readily apparent brashness. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot of Ethan Hunt in Pete Mitchell and that Top Gun: Maverick shares an equal amount of recent Mission: Impossible action with the latest installment.
The opening sequence begins with a prologue that recounts Pete’s service decoration and accomplishments, currently flying as a test pilot. Within the first five minutes, he disregards orders to reach a speed of Mach 10 in order to avoid Rear Admiral (a glorified cameo from Ed Harris) from closing the facility down. Aircraft battles and weapons have evolved considerably since Maverick’s heyday; dogfights are no longer necessary, therefore there is an early sense that Maverick has outlived his usefulness. However, it turns out that the Admiral has been ordered by Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (a returning Val Kilmer who we will discuss later) to have Pete return to teaching at Top Gun. An unknown adversary (a disappointing cop-out on the part of the writers) has a secret facility packed with highly radioactive uranium and must be destroyed.
Naturally, Pete Mitchell is not a teacher. When addressing a group of 16 fighters with a diverse array of supporting pilots including Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Fanboy (Danny Ramirez), Hangman (Glenn Powell), the witty Bob (Lewis Pullman), and others, he informs everyone to reject textbooks immediately, which goes against his commander’s wishes (Jon Hamm). Top Gun: Maverick delivers a brief, a straightforward (but never confusing) rundown of what is required for the following mission in order to minimize risk and maximize effectiveness.
Given that the fearlessly brave and crazy Tom Cruise preferred no CGI and filming inside cockpits, the training routines are breathtaking, with sharp and clear images capturing every sharp maneuver, whether a barrel roll, nosedive, or flip from various angles.
The stunning aerial perspectives provided by Claudio Miranda’s cinematography are matched only by the breathtaking action sequences. The rumbling of the engines, for example, sounds like a comet streaking across the sky. One can hear people gasping inappropriately muted speech (especially on steep slopes), with the wind rushing past everyone and the pressure battling against their bodies (particularly on steep inclines). There’s a concerted effort to highlight the physical strain these moves put on the pilots’ bodies, as well as how they will be at significant risk of passing out if they continue. And when it’s time to act, you may be difficult-pressed to discover a more thrilling and emotional third act in a blockbuster all year (especially since it employs consistently clever methods to extend itself with even greater payoffs rooted in storytelling and character development).
I’m probably preaching to the converted when I declare that Top Gun: Maverick is an immaculately insane treat that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen feasible. Even as someone who doesn’t have much interest in aerial combat, whether it’s movies or games, the action and more specifically, the clarity behind the chases and dogfights is breathtaking and immersive.
When it’s do-or-die time to fly that deadly course on some beautiful snowy mountains and drop the bomb, you metaphorically fasten yourself in for two excruciatingly long minutes (and don’t worry, there’s much more than that in-store). Of course, Lorne Balfe, Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, and Hans Zimmer’s music only adds to the tension.
Top Gun: Maverick also has a brain, as Pete struggles with his legacy, past, and eventual obsolescence. One of his pupils is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (an unrecognizable Miles Teller taking the part seriously on both a physical and emotional level), the son of his best friend Goose who was killed in a fatal accident where Pete was quickly absolved of human error.
The dynamic also allows the filmmakers to draw upon nostalgia early on, with a dark twist. For fans, it may be enjoyable and even soothing to hear Goose’s son enthusiastically sing Great Balls of Fire on the familiar diner piano, but for Pete, it’s just another reminder that he’ll always be entwined in the man’s absence of a father.
Take Val Kilmer’s tasteful and minimalist involvement as Iceman, which doesn’t hide the repercussions of the actor’s throat cancer in any way. It isn’t nasty or deceptive that he features in the narrative (let’s be honest, Val Kilmer has enough power to reject if he didn’t want to do it, and no filmmaker would dare recast that role for a sequel).
Is there too much focus on his character in one creative decision? Yes, especially taking into account how chaotic it appears. However, Iceman’s presence and Val Kilmer’s performance undoubtedly add another layer of emotional complexity to Maverick and Viper. And it’s not just the aerial filming that is effectively done here; the minimal framing of a single word of text is quite effective as well.
The addition of Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), the bar owner who is introduced as a referenced admiral daughter in the original film, as Pete’s new love interest is the only significant element of Top Gun: Maverick that feels out of place and completely pointless. Even if one overlooks the discords in not even attempting to get Kelly McGillis to reprise her role as Charlie (apparently owing to pathetic reasons that Hollywood has yet to and probably never will fully comprehend), and the surprise that the character isn’t mentioned once throughout this film,
It’s a useful vehicle for Pete to convey some of his emotions and long-term sadness, which does work. However, as a character, Peggy is simply another single mother who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Pete that may end up coming full circle in the end here.
That is the one flaw that prevents Top Gun: Maverick from joining the ranks of other great sequels. Otherwise, it’s an expertly crafted adrenaline rush with a heart as strong as an F-18 jet engine that won’t quit pounding. Many of the action sequences are breathtaking, not to mention some wise allusions to past episodes and others represent the continued maturation and evolution of characters both old and new. Two miracles must happen for the mission to be a success, as the protagonists discuss in this episode. There’s also a third miracle; an unwarranted sequel to Top Gun that is nonetheless an exciting spectacle of excess with excellent character development. Perhaps Joseph Kosinski will be Tom Cruise’s miracle worker again any time soon.
Watch free at CinemaHD
Movie Name: Top Gun: Maverick
Cast Leads: Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Bashir Salahuddin
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer, Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise, David Ellison
Written by: Jim Cash , Jack Epps Jr, Peter Craig, Justin Marks
Music: Lorne Balfe
Director Of Photography: Claudio Miranda