Written by: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell
Deciding to make sequels of films made decades ago comes with a combination of laziness and bravery because of the lack of originality to pull from something made so long ago but also facing the challenge of whether a modern audience has the appetite for a continuation. We’ve seen many of these projects crash and burn but then there came Top Gun: Maverick, which exhilarates and provides emotional gut punches that would make even the biggest cynic stand up and applaud.
After spending years working in the private sector developing faster jets, Maverick (Tom Cruise) gets called back to Top Gun to prepare the current pilots for what has been deemed an impossible mission. Dealing with the different personalities involved, Maverick also seeks to reconnect with Rooster (Miles Teller), Goose’s son, who seemingly wants nothing to do with him.
No film sequel has had a steeper uphill climb in gaining my affection than this feature seeing as I heavily dislike the original Top Gun. A film filled with characters I could not stand, which only made the eventual release of this feature something I would not say I was looking forward to. However, to my utter and complete surprise, this feature not only impressed me on a visual level, but it also managed to create a viewing experience like no other and actually got me to care for Maverick as a character as a whole. This, evidently, makes Top Gun: Maverick a miracle, especially when it got me to shed a tear by the end.
While I will not dig into my contempt for the original film in full detail, as I will expand on that whenever I get to it in my alphabetical review schedule, the main reason it never clicked was the horrid characters that were introduced that pushed this jingoistic behavior and seemingly rewarded it throughout. I mean the film completely lost me when Maverick followed Charlie into the women’s bathrooms to show his interest in her and we were just supposed to continue rooting for the guy. Okay, I’ll stop because Maverick’s character growth in this feature does plenty to redeem him and make him someone worth following through this dangerous mission. A mission that will put everyone here to the test and sets up the audiovisual wonder that this feature proved to be.
Selling this film from the very start were the aerial dog fights feeling more involved and immersive than ever before and my goodness did this film deliver on that front. Experiencing this in the theaters in Dolby cinema where the sound vibrates on the seats made every movement exhilarating and pulsating as a whole. I saw this with my mother and she nearly jumped out of her seat every time because of the combination of the blaring sound and stunning visuals that brings you right into the cockpit with these incredibly skilled pilots. Every movement and turn elevates the tension of what occurs, especially when it gets to the final mission. With the additional help of some impeccable cinematography, it just all clicks together to become something undeniably entertaining and special to experience on the biggest screen possible. An adrenaline rush like no other.
This film manages to accomplish a strong balancing act in its tone and management of the emotions at play, which serves as a great testament to Joseph Kosinski and the screenplay. While the screenplay can be criticized for some of the dialogue and how just cheesy it can be at times, it adequately sets the scene of every altercation and the emotions we’re meant to feel to a tee. From the incredibly moving scene Maverick shares with a former friend, to the anticipated hug at the end, you feel everything this film wants you to feel and it just sucks you in to an impeccable degree. Then you have the fun-loving moments like the football game on the beach, which is obviously reminiscent of the famous volleyball scene in the first film along with the romance Maverick builds with Penny (Jennifer Connelly). This screenplay provides the full spectrum and runs the gamut in a way that knocked me back in my seat.
Along with the emotional arc occurring for Maverick and Rooster, the addition of the other pilots rounds out a great cast. Individuals who do not receive much screentime but each carves out individual standout moments to shine. The one that brought the most anticipation into the film for me was Glen Powell, who has heavily impressed in every single thing he has done. From his television work to something as wonderful as Set It Up, I was very intrigued as to what his role would be in this feature, and while limited, he adds the necessary charm needed. He, along with the other pilots build this camaraderie built on competition and excellence that allows them to thrive as a unit and makes the ultimate sacrifice they will likely have to make all the more emotional.
As one can expect, this film rides and dies with Tom Cruise and what this madman will do to entertain us knows no bounds. He gives a strong performance in the role, but he deserves so much credit for helping shepherd this film forward and helping push this to be a cinematic experience unlike any other within this genre. He wanted to put together what would bring people back to the theaters to experience this thrill ride and his massive bet paid incredible dividends. As much as this film becomes about Maverick’s legacy, it equally reflects what Cruise has continued to accomplish as a member of this industry and we must be thankful for his hand in this production.
This film accomplished the impossible when it came to me as an audience member. It removed the stench of its predecessor and became something I could not take my eyes off. It builds a fantastic core of supporting actors to bring us back into this world. A screenplay, with its issues, manages to contribute to this incredibly fun-loving, emotional, heartwarming, exhilarating, and absolute standout of a feature. My biggest surprise of 2022 and something that will continue to hold up for its technical merits along with its earnest storytelling.