When Top Gun was released in 1986, Tom Cruise was known as an ‘up and comer’ whose star was rapidly rising due to his wildly successful teen comedy ‘Risky Business.’ Today, he is one of the most bankable movie stars in the world known for having the energy and courage to execute his own stunts. A far cry from his first ride in an F14 fighter jet, where he tossed his cookies with blowback. Not to mention that Kenny Loggins soundtrack, cast of unknowns including Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards and Meg Ryan have all become cemented as staples in film, television and pop culture history.
30 years later, Tom Cruise hops back into his superstar role of Navy’s top aviator, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. He’s still pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement of those higher in rank that would ground him. As a result, Mitchell get assigned to train a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, while confronting his deepest fears and ghosts of his past.
When you hear Kenny Loggins singing ‘Danger Zone’ and see that Tom Cruise bobblehead on the dash of his fighter jet, you know you are about to be in for the nostalgic trip of a lifetime. With a summer of ‘blast from the past’ film franchises and having the world locked down in their homes for the last few years, it was nice to see this particular film on a big screen, in a theatre with strangers experiencing the joy of cinema. As the daughter of a USMC fighter jet mechanic, it was refreshing to witness that unlike its predecessor, women and people of color were inclusive as fighter jet pilots bringing the franchise into the 21st century.
This is one franchise where watching the original isn’t a requirement. Much of the film makes reference to the past and Maverick’s transgressions with life and career choices, while providing the perfect love interest Jennifer Connelly as Penny. The pair and their chemistry leaves more to the imagination keeping it classy and not a major distraction focal point from the rest of the film.
Director Joseph Kosinski took a page from the late Tony Scott coordinating with the Navy and stepping up those fighter jet scenes to a fevered pitch leaving me breathless and broke down simultaneously. I felt like I was flying the jets myself.
However, the manner in which ‘Iceman’ (Val Kilmer) is respectfully and lovingly brought into the film that will have fans weeping. His presence is mostly made via text messages (as Kilmer’s speech is limited due to throat cancer), but when he and Cruise reunite it’s a moment that clearly shows Kilmer’s acting is sharper than ever. The respect and love these two men feel for one another is palpable on screen and off.
Miles Teller as Rooster is clearly on a roll between this, Paramount’s Godfather drama “The Offer” and “Spiderhead,” this dude is definitely the one to watch in 2022. Similar to his character Andrew in ‘Whiplash,’ Rooster struggles with the inner demon of being insecure or confident due to his lineage. The layers provided by Teller’s performance is beautiful to behold and when he goes toe to toe with Pete you root for him to come into his own.
Watching Top Gun: Maverick is an intense, welcomed journey through a time where films pumped you up and made you feel transformative upon exiting. It also solidifies Tom Cruise is truly a mega movie star whose presence shows no boundaries on screen and off. Produced by Paramount Pictures, you can only catch this one in theaters. Trust me…it’s worth it and then some.