Sunday 29 May 2022

Film Review: Top Gun - Maverick

The long-awaited and much-delayed sequel to Tony Scott's 80s classic Top Gun has arrived, and it's an improvement on the original in almost every conceivable way. 

Tom Cruise once again dons the Nomex jumpsuit and aviators of Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell for a legacy sequel that is all about getting older, longstanding regret and making up for lost time. 

That it's also about a team of cocksure fighter pilots executing an almost impossible mission in enemy territory is part of what makes it this film such a compelling and charming tour de force.

In the years since graduating from Top Gun, Maverick's career has stalled - he's still a captain and has wound up serving as a test pilot for an experimental fighter jet programme. 

But before long, Maverick is roped into training a cohort of Top Gun graduates – including Rooster (Miles Teller), son of Maverick's former copilot Goose – for a mission so dangerous, that the pilots flying it may be punching a one-way ticket out of here.

The original Top Gun, on reflection, is little more than an elaborate music video, with two songs (Danger Zone, Take My Breath Away) on repeat through montages of fighter jets, motorcycles and Tom Cruise making googly eyes at Kelly McGillis. Under the hood, there's not a lot going on. 

In contrast, Top Gun: Maverick has a lot more meat on the bones, with something to say in addition to splashy spectacle in spades. Overflowing with heart, wit, personality, action, drama, romance, tragedy; this is Hollywood blockbuster moviemaking at its boldest, brightest and best.

Cruise sits front and centre, as he does with almost of his films. But this updated iteration of Maverick is a very different character to the smarmy hotshot from 1986 – and isn't the slick super spy saviour Ethan Hunt either. 

As he rounds 60, Top Gun: Maverick feels like Cruise starting to lay the groundwork for the final phase of his career. Sure, there's still action aplenty – but there's some serious character work too, about guilt, getting older, keeping up with the kids and letting go of the past. 

Whether it's reconnecting with an old flame (Jennifer Connelly plays Penny Benjamin, a character mentioned in passing in the original), old friends (Val Kilmer reprises Iceman in a touching scene) or simply showing the kids how its done, Cruise gives his best performance in years.  

Surrounding Cruise is a terrific ensemble of magnetic young actors who just radiate charisma. Teller, someone with a blockbuster career that has never quite taken off (Fantastic Four, Divergent), is actually fantastic here as Goose's son, Rooster. He looks the part, which does half the job, but he acts the part too. That relationship between Rooster and Maverick forms the beating heart of this film, so it's a testament to Teller that he squares up to and matches Cruise's presence. 

Glen Powell (callsign 'Hangman') is another standout; he plays a pilot with swagger for days, and he just owns every scene he's in. It's a 'film star' performance from someone who surely has a big career ahead of them. But enough about the acting and the writing. After all, this is Top Gun. What about the action?

Well, that's where the film really soars (pun intended). Much of the aerial acrobatics were shot in camera, with the actors along for the ride with real naval aviators. It lends the skybound sequences an element of genuine dynamism and authenticity – you can take all the acting classes in the world, and still fail to replicate the wide-eyed surprise and motion-sickness that comes with a 6G loop de loop. 

When a fighter jet races past Maverick's canopy, you can feel the speed and almost smell the fumes. On a big cinema screen with surround sound, Top Gun: Maverick is arresting, edge-of-your-seat stuff – loaded with action the like of which we haven't seen since Mad Max: Fury Road.  

It's clean and well-choreographed, with wide angles and tidy edits that make it easy to follow, even when there's half a dozen jets engaged in a high-speed dogfight. 

The final 40 minutes of Top Gun: Maverick is a non-stop, full-throttle adrenaline rush. It feels like a throwback to another era, when airless backlots and sheets of green screen weren't the default.

Back in 2020, after COVID caused cinemas to close, Cruise was absolutely adamant that Top Gun: Maverick wouldn't get shunted to a streamer. And to their credit, Paramount listened, and waited. It was 100 per cent the right call. Because the experience of seeing this film in all its glory on the biggest, widest, loudest screen possible is one that I will stay with me for a long time. 

The Verdict: 10/10

Delivering dizzying stunts and impactful human drama in equal measure, Top Gun: Maverick is a peerless piece of blockbuster moviemaking that demonstrates that sometimes, they do make them like they used to.

Top Gun: Maverick is in cinemas across Australia now.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...