TOP GUN: MAVERICK (2022)

Tom Cruise as Maverick
  • Release Date: 27/05/2022
  • Cast: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Bashir Salahuddin, Jon Hamm
  • Director: Joseph Kosinski

Powered by sensational action, terrific performances, and engrossing screenplay, Top Gun: Maverick soars for the skies

— Ambar Chatterjee

Tony Scott’s 1986 smash hit Top Gun was one of the most influential films of the 80s. It captured the imagination of a generation of kids and practically doubled the number of applications for the US Navy. Its soundtrack became synonymous with machismo and its unbridled expression. The stars of the film became some of the most recognizable people on earth and the film remains to date one of the most referenced and revered commercial film made about pilots and the US Navy.

To even think of making a sequel to a film that was such a pop culture phenomenon needed a lot of courage and conviction. Joseph Kosinski who previously made Oblivion and Tron Legacy also had to ensure that he had a compelling story to tell, improved upon the legendary action sequences of the 1986 film, and referenced some of the plot points that made the original such a heartwarming affair. More than anything, his leading man, Tom Cruise had to somehow play a 60-year-old who was still a fighter pilot and was just as maverick as he was in the first film. By the time, Top Gun: Maverick culminated, Kosinski had successfully ticked each and every one of those boxes and had given the audiences a whole lot more.

Nearly 30 years after the events of Top Gun, Maverick (Tom Cruise) is still only a captain and spends his time test-flying experimental aircrafts. After one of his trademark brushes with the admiralty, he is sent back to Top Gun at the orders of his old Top Gun teammate, Iceman (Val Kilmer) who is now an Admiral. His mission is to train a group of pilots to take out a high-security Nuclear Plant that is slated to go live in 2 weeks. The plant is situated at such an insurmountable place that it is a challenge to even approach it, let alone destroy it and return home alive. Thus the mission is more of a suicide mission than anything else.

When Maverick learns that his friend Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller) is a part of the team, he starts devising ways to ensure that the attacking team comes back home alive. This entails Maverick to work out a flight path and subject his team to a training regimen that pushes them to the point of breaking. If that was not enough, he also has to contend with Rooster, who hates him for doing something that he had done to keep him safe. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.  

Miles Teller as Rooster

Top Gun: Maverick sets out its objectives in the very beginning and everything else that happens in the film is to complete that objective. This makes the story and screenplay extremely focused and helps the audience to understand what is at stake for the character. The objective also comes with a stipulated time frame that serves as a constantly ticking clock and a reminder of the fact that the team has only a little time left to get their acts together if they want to complete their objective. If that was not enough, the mission itself has to be completed within 2 minutes if the team has to walk out of the enemy territory alive. Thus Maverick and his team are constantly pitted against time which proves to be their greatest adversary more than anything else. This aspect of the film makes it even more thrilling and justifies some of the insane risks and challenges that we see Maverick take up in his training of the team.  

The air combat sequences in the film are some of the most imaginative and well-done pieces of action that I have seen in years. Tom Cruise is well known for choreographing and shooting actions with minimal use of computer-generated imagery. Top Gun: Maverick is no different. He not only put the entire team of actors playing fighter pilots through a rigorous physical training session that nearly equaled what actual combat pilots go through but also ensured that every bit of the combat action was captured on camera. Miniature IMAX cameras were installed inside F-18 cockpits and the actors were tasked with switching the cameras on and off during their flights. This results in the audience getting the kind of view from the cockpit that no other film in recent memory has even come close to achieving.

The air maneuvers are choreographed, shot, and edited with such physicality and gusto that they captured my imagination and doubled my respect for the entire team. I was amazed to think of the huge amount of footage that the director and editor had to sift through to come up with cohesive and thrilling action sequences. They did an exceptional job with this entire process. Reaction shots and the actions are in perfect sync and even though I was looking closely, I couldn’t find any noticeable or jarring discrepancies. In a film that has so many combat sequences with so much of intricacies, this was a herculean task to achieve. What I found even more amazing was how easy it was to understand and follow the action sequences. Joseph Kosinski has to be given credit for showing bits and pieces of information that aided the audiences in understanding complex maneuvers and also the topography where they will have to be carried out in the climax. The same steps are repeated throughout the film until they are carried out for real one last time in the climax culminating in a thrilling final battle that is as intelligible as it is thrilling.    

Tom Cruise might just be the last great action hero of our times and he keeps proving that with his film choices. I was extremely apprehensive about how the character of Maverick would pan out since now he had to play a nearly 60-year-old version of the character that was entrusted with preparing the next generation of hotshot fighter pilots. I was afraid that his character too would be deconstructed or shown as someone deeply troubled by his past choices, a life of shooting down enemies, and his inability to save his best friend Goose. Thankfully Maverick is just as cocky, outrageous, self-absorbed, and difficult to control as he was before. Probably! He is a little more of these things this time around. Tom Cruise is so much in his element here and is evidently having so much fun with the character that that very feeling rubs on to the audiences resulting in them having just as good a time with the character as Cruise himself.

John Ham as Cyclone

I loved Cruise’s chemistry with Jennifer Connelly’s Penny and the effective and sweet romance that they are able to conjure up effortlessly. Cruise looks like a man who wants to fall head over heels in love with her and Connelly gleefully obliges resulting in some of the most emotionally rewarding and romantic sequences of the film. Cruise’s relationship with Rooster is wonderfully envisioned and executed. Through this relationship, Kosinski tries to document how Maverick was trying to undo Goose’s death in his mind and for once be able to save his son and be at peace with himself. His desire to achieve this leads to some interesting predicaments for Rooster. One of the great payoffs of the film was how the relationship and camaraderie between the two develop throughout the film culminating in a climax that was as astounding as it was heartwarming. Miles Teller is the perfect match for the character and he does his best to keep up pace with Cruise in terms of oozing charm, confidence, and warmth.

The aesthetic of the film was a “tip of the hat” to the 1986 film. Through the color scheme, the style of photographing the characters, the music, and the overall vibe of the film, it remained faithful to its predecessor providing the necessary fan service. This aspect of the film added a dash of likeability and nostalgia to it that further enhanced its charm and appeal. They even recreate the iconic motorcycle scenes that were one of the most recognizable visuals of the first Top Gun.

I re-watched Top Gun before going for this film and it really helped me understand many of the intricate emotional beats that this film was driving at. This is a film that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone; even the ones who haven’t seen the original. The film is laced with spellbinding action, high drama, and constantly escalating stakes. It has memorable performances from the ensemble cast and its leading man is a reason in itself to watch the film. There is a cameo by Val Kilmer that made me very emotional as he is shown depicting a condition that he is actually suffering from. I just loved how they approached his character of Iceman and the kind of send-off that they give him. For all this and more, Top Gun: Maverick is a must-watch.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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