Top Gun: Maverick
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writer: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis with Ed Harris and Val Kilmer
Screened at: AMC Empire, NYC, 5/10/22
Opens: May 27th, 2022
It’s not all that common for a hit movie to produce a sequel more than three decades later. When that is the case, however, it’s likely that the wait has been worth it. For Paul Newman, The Color of Money finally won him an Oscar twenty-five years after he originated the role in The Hustler. His costar in the former film was Tom Cruise, who also starred that same year in Top Gun. Now no longer at the beginning of his career but instead an incredibly bankable star approaching sixty, Cruise is back in the game, playing exactly the role he should be in a solidly fulfilling sequel.
In the time since the first film was released, Cruise’s character hasn’t had quite the meteoric rise the actor has. Instead, Pete Mitchell, better known by his codename, Maverick, hasn’t made it above the rank of captain since he wants nothing more than to continue flying. Just as he’s about to be disciplined for yet another failure to obey a superior’s orders, Maverick is called back to Top Gun to train the best and brightest graduates of the school for a mission that will require intense precision and a number of death-defying stunts.
There’s a tremendous amount of nostalgia present throughout this entire film, evident from its opening. Maverick savors and enjoys every moment that he’s flying a plane or riding a motorcycle, and he seems just as happy to be back as audiences will be to have him. His interactions with his ex-girlfriend Penny (Jennifer Connelly), who now runs the local bar, are oozing with sentimentality, providing a motivation for Maverick to consider the risks he’s taking and dwell on the fact that some people might actually care about where he lives or he dies.
Having seen – or recently rewatched – the first film isn’t entirely necessary since there are repeated references and even some flashbacks that should fill in enough information to avoid confusion. Chief among the callbacks are those to Maverick’s best friend Goose, whose son Rooster (Miles Teller) is among the group brought in to train under Maverick and who harbors considerable resentment towards him for reasons that become clear as the film goes on. This film feels simultaneously like an ode to the first film and a new adventure all its own, one that meets Maverick at a point where he’s able to back up his cockiness with talent even as most underestimate him.
Teller leads a capable cast of young performers including Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, and Lewis Pullman, and the ensemble gets support from other established actors like Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Ed Harris, and, returning from the original film as Iceman, Val Kilmer. The dialogue the characters exchange works well enough, but it’s secondary to the excitement of being in the sky and attempting a daring maneuver. Maverick’s fearlessness is tempered by his knowledge that there are consequences to recklessness, something that he gradually imparts on those he is charged with training who have considerably less flying time and life experience.
Why it took thirty-six years for this sequel to be released remains a question that doesn’t negate its existence now. Those who saw Top Gun at a young age will be enamored with this return to what made the first one great, with Cruise coming back and remaining the central part of the storyline a helpful asset to ensure that it doesn’t feel like an attempted replacement that can’t recapture its glory. New viewers should find it accessible as well, full of enough fast-moving developments and high-throttle simulations to keep anyone’s attention for the whole of its runtime.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+