Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie, Peter Craig, and Justin Marks
Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer
Review: Holy shit. I was not expecting to like this movie as much as I did. To be honest, I only like the original Top Gun. It’s definitely not one of my favorite movies of all-time. But, I respect it for the over-the-top, fun 80s movie that it is. So, I was never really sold on the idea of a sequel. It seemed less like an essential movie and more like a way to inflate Tom Cruise’s ego even more. That and, of course, fill the executives’ pocketbooks. But, boy, was I wrong. Because Top Gun: Maverick is a blast and potentially one of the best movies of the year.
It’s hard to know where to start with a movie like this. Normally, I immediately jump to my biggest takeaway of the movie. You know, the thing that you answer when someone asks how it was. “Oh, it was good. The performances were fantastic.” But, in this case, there is just so much good stuff here that it’s hard to pick a favorite.
But, seeing as this is Top Gun, I guess I’d better start at the air sequences. And, good god, these are some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen on screen. First of all, the fact that they filmed inside actual fighter jets means everything to me. In this age of digital effects, it would’ve been so easy to just slap these actors in a room of green screens and go from there. But, nope. Actual fighter jets. I don’t know if it was Tom Cruise’s insistence to do real stunt work or if the studio actually made the right decision for once, but it works so well. Everything feels incredibly real and tense. There are actually times when this felt more like a documentary than a movie. I was on the edge of my seat actually worried for the characters in this movie. And, the sequences were so well shot that you never were confused as to who was doing what, where. Everything was perfectly laid out in front of you. All of that with super intense, rapid fight sequences? Yes please. It doesn’t hurt that they billed this mission as practically impossible. And, just when you thought they’ve shown you everything they possibly could, they’d inevitably ramp the action back up to 11 every time. Seriously, every time these characters were in the air, my jaw was on the ground. Easily some of the best action sequences in the history of cinema with the last half-hour or so being the new standard for aerial battles.
But, honestly, the stuff on the ground might’ve been just as impressive. I was here for the drama in this movie. And, man, did it bring it. Because as much as this movie is about high-flying spectacles, it’s equally about Maverick coming to terms with his past mistakes and putting them behind him to become a better man. Most notably, this involves reconciling with Goose’s son, Rooster. Rooster’s mad at Maverick not only because of his father’s death but also because Mav pulled his papers towards the beginning of his career. Maverick didn’t want Rooster making the same “mistakes” he and Goose made. But, when the military forces them to work together, they’ve got to overcome their differences. It’s a very interesting kinda estranged father-figure/son dynamic that leads to brilliant moments of really high drama, both on the ground and in the air.
But, that’s not even the half of it. We’ve also got Maverick trying to win back over a past lover that he screwed over when he was younger. Plus, we get a really emotionally moment with Val Kilmer’s Iceman. In all of the “requels” we’ve gotten in past years, this might be the best way to bring back a legacy character we’ve seen yet. His scenes were both heartbreaking and inspirational at the same time. And definitely one of the many moments that’ll stick with me when I think back on this movie. In these moments when Maverick is dealing with people his own age, especially, is when we see Tom Cruise’s acting really come into play. You can constantly see the regret and the anguish over his past actions. But, also, the twinkle in his eyes when he sees Jennifer Connelly’s character. I honestly think this might be one of Cruise’s best performances of his career. I hope he gets some recognition for it. Because he’d definitely deserve it.
So, basically, almost nothing but praise for Top Gun: Maverick so far. However, I do have to point something out that felt weird to me. This is the vaguest I’ve ever seen any movie be about who exactly the bad guy is. I mean… we get nothing. The planes are blank. The fighters where completely generic uniforms. And, everyone refers to them simply as “the enemy.” Did this really affect the movie all that much? No. But, it did constantly remind me that this is a multi-million dollar film that’s being made to profit around the world. It honestly is the only thing that made this feel less real. I understand that they have to pander to a lot of the markets we would see as “the enemy” too, but it just felt cheap. Like, they couldn’t even make up a rogue, generic, non-offensive, group of terrorists that everyone could root against. Someone like, I don’t know, Spectre or whoever the bad guys are in Cruise’s own Mission: Impossible franchise. Just saying. Not a big complaint, but one that did hurt in my suspension of disbelief a bit.
Overall though, I am a huge fan of Top Gun: Maverick. I am seriously overwhelmed with how much I enjoyed this movie. There is not a doubt in my mind that this is waaaaay better than the original and, potentially, one of the best militray themed movies of all-time. The flying sequences are just so freaking good. And, with the drama being just as high, yeah, I’m going to definitely recommend this one. Definitely see it in theaters too! Take your dad I’m sure he’ll like it. Actually, I might just see if my dad wants to go see this. Because I’d definitely sit through it again. Hold on. Let me go call my dad real quick.
TL;DR: Top Gun: Maverick, with amazing aerial sequences and some high drama, is not only better than the original but one of the best military themed movies of all-time.
Score: 9/10 (Amazing)