Top Gun: Maverick
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After 30 years as a Navy test pilot, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is tasked with training a group of highly ranked Top Gun graduates and preparing them for a high risk and almost impossible mission. Maverick must face his past and overcome internal obstacles while fulfilling his new Air Force duties.
Tom Cruise, obviously, reprises his role from 30 years ago. This time around he’s joined by Miles Teller (Whiplash), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Monica Barbaro (Unreal), Jay Ellis (Insecure), Danny Ramirez (The Gifted), and Ed Harris (The Truman Show). Val Kilmer is also back as “Iceman.”
I have waited with nervous anticipation for this sequel (especially since it’s been 30 years since the original), but after watching the film, I can say there was no need for the nerves. Top Gun: Maverick is one of the best films of 2022 so far. Tom Cruise returns as our beloved Maverick—the confident, motorcycle-riding, authority-defying, fighter pilot extraordinaire.
The film does a great job of re-introducing this iconic character within minutes, so even if you’re not familiar with him, you’ll understand who he is without watching the original. Maverick is worth rooting for because, although he is still that risk-taking, carefree, charismatic fighter pilot, life experiences have made him more thoughtful and caring for others. Most notably, Rooster (Miles Teller). The son of Maverick’s deceased best friend Goose, Rooster carries resentment towards Maverick for holding him back from the academy and believes he is the reason for his father’s death.
Maverick’s life since Top Gun has been a bit challenging. He doesn’t have a family of his own, his rank has not changed due to his antics, and the death of Goose still weighs heavily on him. His orders to prepare and select a group of six highly skilled Navy pilots to pull off a difficult mission force him to face his past and pass the lessons he’s learned down to his students.
Besides Rooster, the new pilots include Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Payback (Jay Ellis), Hangman (Glen Powell), Coyote (Greg Tarzan Davis), Fanboy (Danny Ramirez), and Bob (Lewis Pullman). They all display their own unique personalities and convey a believable camaraderie. The competitiveness between Rooster and Hangman is a nice parallel to the one between Maverick and Iceman in the original film. Tiller, meanwhile, looks eerily like he could actually be the child of Anthony Edwards and Meg Ryan, and he has great chemistry with Cruise on screen. His strong dislike of Maverick comes through in their test mission, when Rooster and his teammates are challenged to track and target Maverick or do 200 push-ups. You’ll have to watch it to see how that turns out.
Jennifer Connelly as Penny (Maverick’s new love interest) is a strong addition to the story as a supportive figure who doesn’t get lost as a character in her own right. She knows of Maverick’s ways and how to keep him in check. Connelly delivers in just about everything she’s in, and Top Gun: Maverick is no exception.
Considering the movie was filmed on a real aircraft carrier, all the scenes were beautifully shot. From the interior of the carrier to scenes on the beach during sunset, you feel every environment the actors are in. This is why I recommend experiencing it in the theater because, with the technology and sound, it all feels immersive. When Maverick or the other pilots are in fighter jets, you can feel every twist, turn, and barrage of weapons. I felt knots in my stomach during the tense moments of training in the jets. During the final mission I pretty much had to sit my reclining chair in the upright position to get comfortable. The camera movement and directing is phenomenal.
Music was an important part of the first film, and the soundtrack here once again does a lot of work to set the tone. The classic Top Gun theme by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens plays in significant moments throughout the film and Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” creates nostalgic excitement. Lady Gaga’s new original song written for the film, “Hold My Hand,” soars at just the right moments.
There are a few line of dialogue that don’t quite land (if you’ll pardon the pun), but it doesn’t take away any of the enjoyment or my desire to see the film a second time.
Top Gun: Maverick captures the same excitement and action as the original, if not more. It’s well worth experiencing in the theater on a big screen.
A group of friends or solo. Either way, you’ll share an amazing experience.
The actors playing the pilots in the film had to pass the Naval Aviation Survival Training course in San Diego. Not sure who came up with that idea, but I will say Tom Cruise is a producer. You do the math.