There’s a lot of talk about whether Top Gun: Maverick is as good as everyone says it is. For the last 30 years, people have been waiting for this sequel. This action-packed sequel has more emotion than any number of summer blockbusters with twice the star power, and there’s no doubt that Tom Cruise is in top form.
For this movie, director Joseph Kosinski (who guided Cruise through the underrated sci-fi epic Oblivion) apparently shot over 800 hours of footage with state-of-the-art cockpit cameras to painstakingly construct some of the most thrilling aerial shots ever shown on film.
Meanwhile, Cruise studied fighter planes before putting all of his other would-be pilots through flight school, adding an undeniable gritty edge to every frame, which is self-evident in Top Gun: Maverick‘s mission to win back cinema audiences’ affections throughout the world.
The second movie is more complicated than any degree of male posturing that defined its predecessor. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, who was wracked with guilt in the first film, returns in the sequel, permanently trapped in a past he can’t change. This older and no less erratic version has a tough time keeping himself under control as flashbacks include plot points from Tony Scott’s original to drip feed the nostalgia.
This yearning for atonement over the death of Goose (Anthony Edwards) is a recurring motif that the writers employ with ease. Not only does the thematic subtext influence the popcorn thrills, but it puts the audience in control from minute one by utilizing old-fashioned storytelling, with Maverick exceeding all expectations as a result.
Maverick is responsible for training an elite group of hotshot pilots for a black operation when the Rear Admiral (Ed Harris) wants to consign him to the scrapheap. Son of his old wingman, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), who brings back nothing but bad memories.
Val Kilmer’s performance as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky is quietly excellent. Maverick gives Val the chance to shine in almost total silence alongside his old Top Gun adversary, despite being out of the public for some time due to illness.
There is a profound significance to these two actors being in this scene together, as old friends who join together to discharge some suppressed emotion. Amid the fast-paced action sequences, succinctly written speech and inherent nostalgia, this moment feels natural rather than forced. It serves as a key moment narrative-wise while also closing off the past while making way for something new.
Maverick has another intangible that goes beyond its beautifully performed narrative, breathtaking visuals, and pounding music. It evokes a sensation that has been lacking from the multiplex for far too long, when you will be able to hear a pin drop. Alternatively, you won’t be able to hear anything over the roar of jet engines or spontaneous cheers erupting from nowhere, or feverish clapping from crowds swept up in the moment. It’s an experience.
Cinema is back for good, thanks to Cruise’s galvanizing public support through public delight, themes of advancement and progression, against a backdrop of fighter jets and old-fashioned military machismo.
Top Gun: Maverick succeeds in every area, with a runtime that flies by too quickly. Everything people are saying is true; everything others have written should be accepted because blockbusters are back.