Top Gun : Maverick Dir: Joseph Kosinski (Film Review)

Top Gun : Maverick is an unapologetically entertaining action film with a dramatic and comedic heart, offering both a worthy sequel to the 1986 original from director Joseph Kosinski and one of the best cinematic experiences of the year so far.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer

Well isn’t this a nice surprise? Tell me two months ago that the director of one of my favourite unsung sci-fi films (Tron: Legacy) would work with Tom Cruise and a nostalgic ‘80s soundtrack to become my cinematic recommendation of the year in 2022, and I’d have raised a thumb shakily disappointed a hundred times over by modern action remakes.

Yet, here we are, two hours of pure adrenaline later with Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the 1986 original and absolute classic action cheese-fest, Top Gun. The impact of the original film still resonates throughout modern culture today, both in earnest and in satire, and this sequel thankfully focuses on paging homage to its original over carving its own path.

The soundtrack digs right into nostalgia from the film’s opening scenes (Just try not to say Daaaaangerzone under your breath), we get a recreation of everyone’s favourite slow-motion, shirtless sports montage on the beach, and the action scenes are worthy of throwing your empty popcorn box in the air in happy-dumb joy.

There’s the same best-of-the-best banter from the original despite becoming a little overindulgent with reference quotes toward its climax, a love side-story that’s easy, charming and uncomplicated, and deeper moments between old friends that will resonate with many fans who grew up watching the original. The film simply does what the original did best for audiences; entertains and provides easy, enjoyable escapism through Hollywood cinema.

The story picks up more than 30 years after the original film, with loose-cannon flyboy Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) quite possibly trying to push himself close to the melting in a super-secret jet, before he’s reprimanded and sent back to Top Gun flight school as a flight instructor and trainer for a new squad of elite pilots, as a favour from old-friend-turned-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer).

Maverick meets his commanding officer, Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm playing the disgruntled superior with just-manageable authenticity) visits the local bar and quickly falls into a romantic-comedy well of banter with Penny (Jennifer Connelly) a quick-witted and playfully no-nonsense bar owner and mother.

Connelly plays what little she has here brilliantly, bringing some real-world complications and feelings into an otherwise straightforward action film. It’s never overwhelming or distracting, and largely just adds to the film’s underlying narrative of recklessness, selfishness and the consequences.

This is explored in greater depth through Maverick’s relationship with one of the pilots, Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late best friend and RIO Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards in flashbacks and photos). It feels occasionally rushed, forced, and then brushed away by the end, which is perhaps the only aspect of the film that feels underwhelming.

Kosinski’s previous collaborations and experience building complex worlds at war on screen no doubt help the supporting cast fulfil their roles and meet the tone of the film perfectly, leaning more toward the tight-knit but ruthless team in Aliens than anything we’ve seen in recent years, but the best performance is undeniably a team effort between cinematographer Claudio Miranda, editor Eddie Hamilton, and the genuinely jaw-dropping footage of the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-14 Tomcat in a surround-sound cinema.

Top Gun: Maverick doesn’t try to change the world, but it does an incredibly entertaining job of saving it, delivering a sequel that will satisfy fans of the original without alienating newcomers or offering a one-note action film to a limited audience. It’s shallow, fantastical, and good, easy fun for almost everyone – exactly what Top Gun should be.

Oxford Lamoureaux