The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - TOP GUN: MAVERICK | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [Cinema] - TOP GUN: MAVERICK

top gun maverick review
Maverick is tasked with training a group of pilots for a seemingly suicidal mission.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer

top gun maverick poster

In Top Gun: Maverick, director Joseph Kosinski's belated sequel to Tony Scott's era-defining 1986 blockbuster, Ed Harris plays an uptight Navy admiral who favours replacing manned aircraft with drones. "Your kind will soon be extinct," he says of Tom Cruise's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, now a test pilot. "Maybe so," replies Maverick, "but not today."

It's hard not to view Top Gun: Maverick as an explicit statement on Cruise's position in Hollywood. Committed to practical, in-camera filmmaking, Cruise is the keeper of the flame of a type of Hollywood filmmaking that once gave us such hold-your-breath moments as Buster Keaton almost being crushed by a collapsing house and Steve McQueen jumping a motorbike over a barb wire fence. With the rest of Hollywood now preferring to stick a bunch of b-grade British and Australian actors in front of a greenscreen in Bucharest, Cruise continues to deliver such thrilling moments, reinventing himself in recent years through the Mission: Impossible franchise as America's answer to Jackie Chan.

top gun maverick review

While Cruise doesn't perform any stunts in Top Gun: Maverick - unless you count a nearly 60-year-old man outrunning a bunch of twenty-somethings to score a touchdown in an impromptu game of beach football - it continues his commitment to practical filmmaking. Yes, the actors really are inside those cockpits, their bodies being wrecked by forces of nature humans weren't meant to ever experience. Top Gun: Maverick boasts the best action sequences you'll see outside of Cruise's other franchise, but it also understands that other factor that made the original such a hit; it's got heart, romance, and bags of charm.


Some 35 years after the events of the first movie, Maverick is now a Navy test pilot. Due to his…well, maverick personality, he's failed to progress beyond the rank of captain, unlike Val Kilmer's by-the-book Iceman, who is now an admiral. Maverick is surprised when Iceman recommends him for the task of training a group of the Navy's best flyers for what looks like a suicidal mission deep in enemy territory (it's essentially the assault on the Death Star). Charged with training 12 of the best of the best and whittling them down to six, Maverick finds himself reunited with a face from the past - Lieutenant Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the bitter son of his rear, "Goose", who famously perished in the first movie. Rooster blames Maverick for his father's death, while Maverick is terrified at the thought of losing two generations of Bradshaws.

top gun maverick review

As Maverick sets about training this group, using unconventional methods that rankle his superiors, the movie takes the dynamic of The Dirty Dozen and flips it on its head. Here we have a loose cannon in charge of training a dozen rule-obeying squares, and much of the movie plays like The Bad News Bears with Cruise in the Walter Matthau role.


While the original was marketed as a romance first (let's not forget it was a cash-in on the success of An Officer and a Gentleman) and action movie second, the reverse has been the case with this sequel as we now live in a world where Hollywood only seems to target 14-year-old boys. It's surprising then to find Top Gun: Maverick is a more romantic movie than its predecessor. Maverick's love interest here is Jennifer Connelly's Penny Benjamin, the "admiral's daughter" previously referenced as one of Maverick's throwaway romantic conquests. Now the proprietor of "The Hard Deck," a local bar frequented by Top Gun trainees, Penny makes Maverick confront his love 'em and leave 'em past. As Maverick coyly attempts to embark on a relationship of substance with Penny, he's aware of the heartbreak he once caused her. This leads to a subplot that sees Cruise reveal a side he's kept shut away since the days of Jerry Maguire, the sensitive, vulnerable romantic lead. In these scenes he reminds us that he's more than just a stuntman with a million dollar smile – he's an actor who can tell us so much with a furrowed brow or a look of uncertainty, and it's remarkable how much humanity he imbues to a character who is, let's face it, an '80s cliche.

top gun maverick review

Top Gun: Maverick proudly acknowledges its predecessor, but unlike the worst of these "legacy sequels" (Halloween; Jurassic World; Star Wars: The Force Awakens), it never resorts to any cheap fan service. There are several moments where you worry an iconic line from the original is about to be repeated for a cheap laugh, but the movie commendably resists any such nostalgia-mining. Close to 40 years may have passed since the original, but Top Gun: Maverick is content to be a sequel in the traditional sense, picking up the story rather than rehashing it for a new generation.

A lot has changed since 1986. Original director Tony Scott and producer Don Simpson have both passed, Kilmer has succumbed to a career-ending health condition (acknowledged in his cameo here), and most of Top Gun's supporting cast have aged into obscurity. One constant remains in the seemingly immortal Cruise. Top Gun: Maverick occasionally reminds us that Cruise can't do this sort of thing forever. Someday he'll have to face his mortality. But not today.

Top Gun: Maverick
 is in UK/ROI cinemas from May 25th.



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