I know that many of you thought this day would never come, but flying into UK cinemas today (Friday in the US) is the action-drama, Top Gun: Maverick. The movie – directed by Joseph Kosinski – stars Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer, and is a belated sequel to 1986’s Top Gun.
The film follows the story of Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, after he is called back into his old training ground, in order to teach a new group of pilots some special manoeuvres. The group is comprised of a dozen of the best pilots in the world, and they have been specially selected to train for an important mission.
An enemy nation has built a facility to house uranium, which is hidden amongst a collection of mountains and canyons. The facility will go online in a matter of weeks, and once it does, this will pose a significant threat to an ally of the US Government.
In order to ensure this facility remains off-line, the US Navy has orders to destroy the structure through an aerial strike. They need Maverick’s help to pull this mission off, by having him impart his knowledge, skill, and wisdom, into a new generation of pilots.
With Maverick back in the cockpit, the team are soon put through their paces, and find themselves learning from the best of the best. However, not every pilot is happy about Maverick’s appointment, specifically Lieutenant Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw, who is the son of Maverick’s late friend ‘Goose’.
Rooster has a long-standing problem with Maverick and he’s none to keen on seeing the Captain heading up the mission and giving him orders. However, the pair will have to work through their issues as best as possible, because they have an assignment to complete and the clock is ticking.
Now, before I get to the main thrust of this review, let me say that yes, you read it correctly, Top Gun: Maverick is now in cinemas. The film is playing at your local multiplex, and I promise this is no lie.
You probably thought this day was just a pipedream, and that this film would never get released because Top Gun: Maverick has taken a very long time to get to screens. No, I’m not just talking about the 36-year gap between the release of the first film and the release of this second instalment; I’m talking about the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those not aware, filming began on Top Gun: Maverick four years ago, and the film was completed three years ago. Top Gun: Maverick was then due in cinemas in 2020, but when the world was thrown into chaos, the movie was removed from the release schedule and it was temporarily shelved.
Over the past couple of years, a number of streaming services tried to buy the distribution rights to the film, in order to send it direct-to-streaming during the pandemic years, but the film’s producers and lead star, Tom Cruise, refused. They believed that Top Gun: Maverick was something special, that should be given a theatrical release, and were not keen to dump it onto streaming.
Were they right to stand by their decision and hold off until summer 2022, so that Top Gun: Maverick could get a theatrical release? You bet your sweet Aunt Fanny they were!
Top Gun: Maverick is an absolute triumph. It is a film which not only proves that belated sequels can succeed, it also delivers on everything audiences could want and more.
This film has action, adventure, comedy, romance, thrills, and a superb cast. It also includes various call-backs to its predecessor, has a great soundtrack, and has some of the best aerial stunt work committed to film.
I’ll tell you this now, I am not a huge fan of the original Top Gun. I’m an ‘80s kid, so it should be my jam, but the first film has never really done anything for me, so I was a little bit apprehensive going into Top Gun: Maverick.
But that apprehension faded within the first couple of minutes and I soon found myself firmly engaged in the movie. Top Gun: Maverick then held my attention all the way through to the end, and I can safely say I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the film.
Despite its 131-minute running time, Top Gun: Maverick zips along at a good pace, and at no point does it drag. Watching the movie, I found myself becoming completely invested in the lives of the core characters, and there wasn’t a moment where I found myself bored or disinterested.
In fact, at times I was on the edge of my seat, as I willed and (silently) cheered the pilots on with their mission. Heck, I’ve not been this invested in a successful flight since I encountered some worrying turbulence on a trip back from Rhodes!
But yes, I was locked in and fully engaged, and this is because, Top Gun: Maverick is a confident picture, which knows exactly what it is doing at all times. It is a film that knows when to lean into its drama, when to inject a shot of nostalgia, and when to truly dazzle.
At the forefront of the picture is Tom Cruise, reprising the role of Maverick. He is the beating heart of this film, and the stand-out star.
Cruise’s role in this film isn’t an extended cameo, included just so producers could stick his face on the poster, he is the lead character, with all of the action centred around him. This film is about Maverick’s story, and those who have been itching to see Cruise back in the role will feel very rewarded.
He is excellent in this movie. Regardless of the decades that have passed since Cruise last played Maverick, he slips back into the part with ease.
And because Cruise has become famous for filming many of his own death-defying stunts, thanks to his work on the Mission: Impossible movies, all of the stunt work in Top Gun: Maverick feels authentic. I believe both Cruise and the rest of the cast underwent extensive flight training to help make the stunts feel as real as possible, and all that hard work has paid off.
I’m no plane enthusiast, but boy, the aerial sequences are superb. There is a beauty and majesty to the action in this film, and it can not be understated.
With regard to the rest of the cast, everyone performs their part well, with Miles Teller doing a fine job as Goose: Mark II. The sense of camaraderie between him and the rest of the cast is evident for all to see, and I expect everyone had fun making this picture.
This also extends to Val Kilmer, who pops up briefly to reprise the role of Admiral Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. In terms of screen time, he only gets a few minutes midway through the film, but it is powerful stuff and I expect he was more than happy to come back.
Kilmer’s real-life battle with throat cancer back in 2017 means his role is somewhat restricted for this film, but the writers and director find the perfect way to include him in the story. When he is on screen it is emotional, and I guarantee that fans of Top Gun will be overjoyed to know he makes an appearance.
Those same fans will also love hearing various musical cues to the original, as well as seeing multiple visual references too. This film is keen to serve up snippets from the past, to satisfy the core fanbase, while at the same time moving things forward.
What works in the film’s favour is that while there is plenty of nostalgia, audiences don’t need to have watched the original film to enjoy this new one. Sure, it might help, but Top Gun: Maverick offers enough of the key details to ensure this film works irrespective of what came before.
We are now firmly into summer blockbuster season and Top Gun: Maverick feels very much like one of the big movies of the year. I expect much praise to be heaped on this film from other reviewers, and I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t become a huge financial success.
I have nothing negative to say about the film – nothing at all. Whether you are a fan of Top Gun or not, I highly recommend taking a look at Top Gun: Maverick.
This is a sequel which knows how to balance the past and the present, to ensure there is something for everyone. Director Joseph Kosinski has delivered a top-notch picture, and it deserves to soar this summer.
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