Strap yourself in as the blockbuster of the summer as this breathlessly exciting sequel blasts you along on supersonic waves of nostalgia, extraordinary aerial photography and the unrelenting charisma of star, Tom Cruise.
Inspirational, respectful of military service, and a paean to can-do team spirit, Top Gun: Maverick is a high-fiving, high flying celebration of the virtues of endurance and excellence, a victory lap for the star’s long lived career and a muscle-flexing statement of intent from Cruise’s Hollywood military-industrial complex.
Cruise reprises the role as naval aviator and all-round fighter jet pilot hero, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, who back in 1986 used his amazing aeronautical skills to avert a potential Third World War, and marked his graduation from the navy pilot school, nicknamed ‘Top Gun.’
Now living alone in the world’s best man-cave, Maverick remains a lowly captain while his contemporaries and rivals have flown up the ranks, with his one-time adversary, Iceman, is now an admiral, allowing for a lovely emotional return for actor Val Kilmer.
Out of date, out of time and threatened with extinction, Maverick will not go quietly into the night when an admiral wants a to replace the pilots with drones. My favourite Tom Cruise persona is the Cruise who’s told off, and Maverick is told off a great deal here.
He returns to the Top Gun academy to teach the latest generation of pilots and handpick a team to fly an almost impossible mission to destroy a uranium plant in enemy territory. The team are noticeably more ethnically mixed compared to last time, and even include a token women flyer.
Sadly there’s no return for actors Meg Ryan or Kelly McGillis, but romance arrives in the form of the gorgeous single mother bar owner, called Penny. It’s a slightly-written role but Jennifer Connolly’s charm and talent make it seems more substantial than it is, and it offers Connolly an opportunity to demonstrate some impressive sailing skills, and there’s a nice riff on Richard Gere’s 1982 romantic drama, An Officer and a Gentleman.
Of course the emotional core of the film is family, and Miles Teller sporting a moustache and Hawaiian shirts of his late on-screen dad and Maverick’s erstwhile partner, Goose. Jon Hamm and Ed Harris are also on hand contribute to the excessive levels of testosterone.
Being a Tom Cruise film, the flying is done for real. And frankly the death-defying flying sequences are astonishing. In order to do justice to all involved please watch this on the biggest screen available to you.
The final mission is an exhibition of phenomenal flying and involves hurtling at high speed through a canyon littered with deadly rocket launchers, at the end of which is a target barely a couple of metres wide. If that sounds suspiciously like Luke Skywalker’s Death Star mission in the first Star Wars film, it’s worth remembering that mission was inspired by a Second World War movie, 633 Squadron.
Armed with sky-high levels of machismo this is a surprisingly funny film, with the humour delivered with a remarkably straight face and a tone that veers at times but never falling into self-parody. After all, it would be hard to send itself up as much as the gloriously self-knowing brash and glossy original did, even if all the cast weren’t in on the joke.
You don’t have to have seen the original to have a great at the cinema with Maverick and co. and new director Joseph Kasinski dedicates this film to Tony Scott, the late director of the 1986 original Top Gun, and pays homage to Scott’s visual style with plenty of sunsets and silhouettes.
Plus Kasinski brings back parts of the original soundtrack, and is aided and is abetted by the musical talents of electro-pop pioneer Harold Faltermeyer, pop star LadyGaga and composer Hans Zimmer, and deploys their talents with deadly frequency and precision.
At least as great a time at the cinema as the glorious original, Cruise gets the summer off to a flying start.