Director: Joseph Kosinski
Stars: Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman and Monica Barbaro.
Review by Damocles.
I feel the need … the need for speed.
Top Gun: Maverick is truly an unforgettable experience.
Easily one of the best action films to come out of 2022, Top Gun: Maverick is a master-class in proving that sometimes, just putting a camera in place for real scenes is enough to get your blood pumping.
But that has been the major selling point of Tom Cruise’s career. He is one of the truly last movie stars left on the planet in a world where characters are more iconic than the actor playing them.
The name Tom Cruise is alone to guarantee a certain number of seats in the cinema and the star knows it. Which is why he pushed for the delay of this movie to the big screen. He believes in his product, his star power and more importantly himself.
And the numbers follow that belief. Top Gun: Maverick is one of the highest grossing movies of all time, that doesn’t involve spandex or large universes. This is a sequel to a film that came out 36 years ago … and it doesn’t miss the landing at all.
This is a throwback to old-school film-making where all the action is happening for real. The high G-forces that stretch the skin of the actors, the speed in which the ground rushes by, the way how air rushes past the wingtips …. right from the get-go there is an authenticity to the film that makes it instantly gripping.
And it’s all captured right there for us the audience to marvel at. You can’t help but be engrossed in the action the moment you see those fighter jets do their aerial maneuvers.
Because this film is offering you an unprecedented look into what it is like to fly one of the most lethal and quickest birds in aviation history.
And in Joseph Kosinski, we have a seasoned director who is used to creating drama in the sky, with his more underrated films such as Oblivion (2013) and Tron Legacy (2010). Both featured incredible aerial sequences that served him well when crafting the action sequences in Top Gun Maverick.
His clean, measured and calculative style is on full display here, right from the opening montage which pays homage to the original, to his near beat perfect cutting between the pilots’ reaction and plane movement. His earlier work also featured highly realistic CGI work, that was almost seamless in how they blended with physical actors, Tron Legacy being a particular standout.
Top Gun Maverick is no exception. The rare moments that need to be augmented with CGI are seamless with the rest of the movie, a testament to the work of the visual effects artists and Kosinki’s eye.
The plot is simplistic and serviceable. It is almost elegant in how it hits every emotional story beat and the cast understands their role, to be memorable and fun, but not overshadow the true star of the film, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.
In many ways, this film is so reminscent of the original, only this time Maverick does not go through a typical character arc, instead proving his worth in a world that is modernising against him and his rebellious ways.
All the performances are solid, but props has to be raised for the clear analogy to Maverick’s early days, Glen Powell’s Hangman is a stand-out performance, as the supremely confident, all American pilot whose ability is never diminished throughout the film, a surprising twist on an old story-beat regarding arrogant people.
Cinematography wise, it goes without saying that this is a beautiful film to behold, with all the aerial footage being a thrill ride from start to finish. It somehow never gets old, seeing the actors twist and gasp their way through tight high-G turns and a part of me is excited to see how Kosiniki can bring this level of immersion and intensity to the cockpit of car-racing.
With the romance of seeing planes soaring into the sunset, and the vast horizons that beckon, the score needs to be equally fun. In many ways, the standalone songs that were made for the film are the true highlights of the score. Lady Gaga, Kenny Loggins and OneRepublic all bring back that fun Top Gun flavour that made the original so fun. The actual original score though, is more equally bland Zimmer music that never really rises to the occasion of being memorable.
It was disappointing to discover that, considering they brought back Harold Faltermeyer, but never used any of his iconic synth style for the film.
Overall, Top Gun: Maverick is the truest summer blockbuster movie that doesn’t rely on flashy CGI to tell its story. Instead, it grips you firmly in the reality of naval aviation and the crazy risks and skill these pilots wield when in the air.
Adrenaline pumping, realistic and fun, Top Gun: Maverick is one of those films you have to see, to understand just why movies can truly transport you elsewhere for a solid 2 hours and never leave you bored.
So, thank you Tom Cruise for being as committed to your craft as you are, because this film will definitely inspire a future generation of filmmakers to depend less on CGI and achieve the impossible in reality.
A scene to recall: The moment Maverick showed the brass and his class how and why he is the Top Gun. TOT: 2 Minutes and 15 Seconds.