When Tom Cruise took audiences to the ‘danger zone’ back in 1986 I was nine years old. Like many from my era I felt the ‘need for speed’ countless times growing up. “Top Gun” is about as 80’s as a movie from the 1980’s can be. From quotable dialogue, to incense aviation action, to the lovable characters, and pristine direction from Tony Scott. It’s safe to say the first film is a beloved classic to a generation. So naturally the pressure for “Top Gun: Maverick” to succeed is immense. A two-year pandemic delay only built the anticipation but it’s finally here. I’ve seen it, and I can safely say, this movie pulls the bar for quality action movies and raises it into the clouds.
“Top Gun: Maverick” succeeds in about every category a rebooted property needs in order to be considered a success. It advances the characters that you already know and love. It introduces a new collection of pilots to connect with. The story builds on the original to explore new directions to stand on its own, without feeling like a simple retread. And most important, it takes the level of the action and elevates it to unprecedented immersive heights to create a true cinematic experience. I went in with nearly unattainable expectations, and I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie that was as emotionally engaging as this one.
The story weaves intrigue to connect to the emotional core of the viewer as Maverick returns to Top Gun to train a new team of pilots for a deadly mission. Goose’s son Rooster being tossed into the mix increases the drama to compelling levels. Something that blends nicely with the riveting action set-pieces to create a charming flow of insane action-sequences and character drama. The film sprinkles in plenty of nostalgia and fanservice moments but never does it feel like a reliance. It’s merely the cherry on an already delicious plotline. It weaves grief, comradery, friendship, forgiveness, romance, bromance, effective splashes of humor, and cutting-edge cinematic action to result in the definition of a summer blockbuster.
The performances were fantastic. Cruise delivers one of his best performances as he steps comfortably back into this character that made him a star. He’s aged. He’s broken. He’s remorseful. But when the story needs it, he’s still the same old Maverick and seeing Cruise navigate these character elements with ease was a pleasant surprise. Cruise is always solid, however in another turn as Maverick he was on another level in this film in terms of range and effectiveness. Jennifer Connelly was a great leading lady and her chemistry with Cruise captured a sincerity that made you root for their love. Much like Miles Teller who brought a touch of that Goose personality to truly feel like his son.
This enables the Maverick/Rooster subplot to thrive and with the chemistry between Cruise and Teller the emotional intensity of their relationship and where it grows throughout the storyline was able to hit the heartstrings and rouse laughter. Sometimes both at once. “Top Gun: Maverick” succeeds because it tells a story that has meaning. That has a purpose. With characters that are filled with appealing human qualities both good and flawed.
While watching you are genuinely invested in this story which makes the already adrenaline pumping action, actually mean something with natural ramifications. This movie pulls these characters up into the skies for harrowing aerial battles and the visuals this movie delivers are unlike anything you have ever seen. “Top Gun: Maverick” may not be perfect. It does have a small scene that I would have liked left out as it feels more like plot-device to control the story direction, however without spoilers I’ll leave it at that. Because other than that small gripe, this movie is worth seeing on the big screen over and over.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.