If you’re feeling the need for speed, you’ll get what you’re looking for here
I’m not sure Top Gun really needed a sequel, and according to reports, Tom Cruise didn’t seem that sure either. Still, director Joseph Kosinski (Spiderhead) somehow managed to encourage the Mission Impossible star back so we got a sequel anyway. Thankfully, this is more than just a cash-in trading on the original’s name, and despite the nostalgic throwbacks, it manages to rise above the original cheese-fest and be an all-around better movie.
Cruise returns as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and he is the same risk-taking, authority-avoiding figure that he was in Tony Scott’s 1986 original. The opening scenes see Maverick going against orders and taking to the skies to prove man really is better than machine when it comes to piloting a fighter jet and these moments are as exhilarating as you might expect.
It’s not long before Maverick is brought down to earth, however, as his plane crashes after achieving his objective. He survives the crash (it would have been a very different movie if he hadn’t) but rather than being booted out of the military for being insubordinate, he is ordered to return to the Naval Fighter Weapons School where he originally graduated to train some hotshot new recruits for the TOPGUN program.
As Maverick is more comfortable sitting in a cockpit than standing at the front of a classroom, he doesn’t feel particularly equipped for his new role. But when he learns of the top-secret mission that he has to prepare these young pilots for, he realizes that he might be the best person for this job after all. This is partly because the mission ahead of them is an almost-impossible one and it needs somebody with Maverick’s flying prowess to ensure its success.
But while Maverick might have what it takes to fly a plane, training a bunch of cocky new recruits isn’t an easy task. His life is made even more difficult when he realizes one of the fighter pilots in his care is LT Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, who died during a training mission in the original Top Gun. Rooster is initially hostile with Maverick for reasons that will become clear when you see the movie and it’s their relationship that forms the narrative backbone for events that take place throughout the story.
The connection to Goose isn’t the only aspect of Top Gun: Maverick that is a callback to the movie that came before. The soundtrack follows some of the same beats, there is a sense of familiarity with some of the movie’s locations, and the young recruits still find time to unwind under the sun with a game of beach volleyball.
But the most poignant nod to the original Top Gun is the scene between Maverick and Iceman (Val Kilmer) and while brief, it is one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie. Despite Kilmer’s reduced ability to talk (he lost his voice to throat cancer), he still manages to convey much through facial expressions alone, and it’s clear that he and Maverick have an unshakeable bond during the scene they share together. Cruise ably delivers here too and shows a rare moment of emotional tenderness as his character re-connects with his long-time friend.
Still, you don’t come to a Top Gun movie for volleyball and male bonding (I assume) as it’s the scenes that take place hundreds of feet above ground level that you’re probably here for. And in this aspect, the movie ably delivers as we get plenty of high-octane flying scenes as Cruise and his co-stars take to the skies for real.
The cast are in the cockpit for every single aerial shot of the movie although it is military pilots and not the actors themselves that pull off the dangerous maneuvers during the thrilling airborne sequences. The actors still had to take flight training though and the fact that they really are up in the air makes this movie even more realistic and exciting.
The pulse-pounding airborne action sequences are a real highlight, with planes engaging in dogfights and swooping through canyons at regular intervals. If you’re looking to satisfy your need for speed, you will get what you’re looking for here. But what you won’t get is any coherent reason for why these graduating pilots are doing what they’re doing. Yes, we know that they have been tasked with destroying targets at a heavily-fortified uranium facility but we don’t know much about their enemies or their motivations.
Of course, it doesn’t really matter who the enemy is. If this movie is to remain timeless, as was the director’s intent, it can still be relevant 5, 10 and 20 years from now. It would have been easy to name Russia or North Korea as the movie’s main threat but in future years there could be other countries that pose a threat to geopolitical stability. As such, we can simply be content that there are bad guys to be thwarted even if we don’t know who they are or where they come from.
If you can ignore the fact that the plotting is a little vague, you should have a good time with Top Gun: Maverick. There is much here to satisfy fans of the original movie but even non-fans will appreciate the talented cast of actors and high-flying action scenes that elevate this above many of the other summer blockbusters that will be landing in multiplexes this year.
Read More: Top Gun: Maverick Ending Explained
Verdict - 7.5/10