REVIEW: Top Gun: Maverick
Too-cool-for-school test pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) is brought back from the fold to train a batch of talented and cocky recruits for a life-and-death mission.
They’re the best of the best in their class, lone wolves who are fueled by massive egos and a determination to outshine and outfly their peers.
If Maverick can’t get these hot-heads to cool down and learn to work as a team, they might just not make it out of the mission alive.
It’s a well-accepted fact that sequels are nowhere near as good as the original. Take for example, The Matrix, Fast and Furious and Lethal Weapon. The list goes on.
Occasionally, there are pleasant surprises. Top Gun: Maverick is one of them.
Director Joseph Kosinski takes everything great from the first film and repackages it into a sequel that feels new and faithful to the original at the same time.
There’s the high-octane dogfights, shirtless game of sport on the beach and cheesy romance between Maverick and Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly).
The opening sequence is nearly shot-for-shot the same as the one used in Top Gun - a reassuring indication that Kosinski is here to build on the first film and not pull it apart.
Some 36 years have passed since the release of Top Gun in 1986.
The sequel was first scheduled for release in 2019, but delayed until 2020 so producers could fine-tune the flight sequences.
Its release was pushed back by another two years because of the Covid pandemic.
Top Gun: Maverick may have been a long time in the making, and the wait time might have felt slow, but the film launches straight into the action, flying through the 2 hour and 17 minute long run time at Mach 10 - or 10 times the speed of sound.
Maverick may be three decades older, but he certainly still has the ‘need for speed’ as much as he did when he was a young pilot.
He’s still got the rebellious streak and disrespect for authority that frequently lands him in the office of his superiors - this time it’s Admiral Beau Simpson (Jon Hamm) breathing down his neck.
Now Maverick is the teacher and he’s dealing with a bunch of cocky pilots. There’s Hangman (Glen Powell), Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Payback (Jay Ellis) and Rooster (Miles Teller).
Rooster is the son of ‘Goose’ - Maverick’s late friend who died after trying to eject himself from a falling F-14 in the first film.
Maverick is still troubled by the death and it’s no help that Rooster is a spitting image of his father and as much an avid flier.
Tensions rise, egos clash and old wounds are reopened. Maverick has beaten just about every challenge as a pilot in the sky but this may be the one that sends him shooting down in flames.
Cruise was insistent on one condition on the release of the film: that it be shown in cinemas and not on streaming platforms like Netflix.
He wanted audiences to be immersed in the adrenaline, to watch the fighter jets blast through the sky on the big screen and hear the deafening throttle of the engines on surround sound.
Blood-pumping cinematic experiences like these ones are few and far to come by and, not unlike Cruise, may be on their way out.
It’s like rear admiral Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain (Ed Harris) tells Maverick, “Your kind is headed for extinction.”
Cruise turns as he is about to leave the office and looks defiantly at him. “Maybe so, sir. But not today,” he says.
Strap in and prepare for take off. It’s going to be one hell of a last ride.
Written by Aidan Wondracz