Top Gun: Maverick

When Wo-1. Bernie ‘Hondo’ Coleman (Bashir Salahuddin, “Cyrano”) tells test pilot Cpt. Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell (Tom Cruise) that their Mach 10 project is being terminated on the very day they were going to attempt Mach 9, Pete does what he always does – takes his plane out anyway and pushes it above and beyond the end goal, eventually having to eject, a stunt that doesn’t endear him to Rear Admiral Cain (Ed (Ed Harris).  Pete is surprised to learn his Navy career isn’t over when he’s called back to where it all began, this time not to fly but to teach young pilots how to succeed in a near impossible mission in “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Laura's Review: B+

"Top Gun: Maverick" isn't only better than the original, it is the quintessential Tom Cruise movie, the best we can expect from a movie preordained to be a summer blockbuster.  Is it perfect?  No.  Just when you’ve given yourself over to its high concept razzle dazzle, it takes that bridge too far, piling on another inexplicably successful stunt after having just accomplished two self-described miracles, one which ends all too predictably.  It then comes down to earth with a romantic reunion shot that looks just like a car commercial, the distressingly slim Jennifer Connelly leaning against her silver Porsche convertible just so to be wrapped in Cruise’s embrace before the duo take flight in the actor’s very own P-51 Mustang.  But Cruise has also had the sense to age Maverick with hard won wisdom along with that youthful fearlessness and writers Ehren Kruger (2019's "Dumbo") and Eric Warren Singer ("Only the Brave") go out of their way to make his class of Top Guns distinct individuals.  They also all were actually up in those F/A-18 Super Hornets, acting in flight against real G-Forces in cockpits armed with cameras.   Cruise, of course, actually flew off the deck of an aircraft carrier.

The film is a mix of nostalgia for the original (it’s dedicated to Tony Scott, the first film’s late director, and this one’s Joseph Kosinski ("Oblivion," "Only the Brave"), recreates his shot of Cruise racing a jet on the runway on his Kawasaki motorcycle to ‘Danger Zone’) and a technological update of both American military equipment and filmmaking itself, even with Cruise dismissing the use of CGI.  We learn that the man who is often questioned about his military rank considering his decades of experience has had an old pal looking out for him, Iceman (Val Kilmer) now a 4-star admiral in charge of the Pacific fleet.  But it is the late Lt. Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw, Maverick's former wingman, who haunts this tale and Maverick’s biggest obstacle just may be handling his son, Lt. Bradley 'Rooster' Bradshaw (Miles Teller, who in addition to the flight training, took 7 weeks of piano lessons to recreate the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene), one of his TOPGUN candidates whose resentment of the man is twofold and whom Maverick is desperate to protect.

Kosinski conducts all the beats like a maestro, from the spatial logistics of the action (the mission involves extremely low altitude flying within winding canyons that suggest the outer surface of the Death Star combined with pinpoint bomb dropping accuracy and steep ascents into enemy missile range) to comic timing (after an elaborate exit from Penny’s (Connelly) bedroom window to avoid being seen by her daughter Amelia (Lyliana Wray), Maverick drops right in front of her).

There’s also romantic banter, Connelly’s Penny, now the owner of The Hard Deck aviators’ club, calling out Maverick to her customer’s delight.  She also happens to be an expert sailor who has to teach the Navy pilot.  Equality is evident in TOPGUN as well, Lt. Natasha 'Phoenix' Trace (Monica Barbaro, TV's 'The Good Cop') rising to the top of Maverick’s class.  (The rest of the pilots include Lewis Pullman as Phoenix’s wingman whose call sign of ‘Bob’ gets added meaning by the end of their mission; “Hidden Figures’” Glen Powell as the cocky, arrogant ‘Hangman;’ Jay Ellis of HBO’s ‘Insecure;’ Greg Tarzan Davis and Danny Ramirez.  Maverick’s new ‘boss,’ the rigid Adm. Beau 'Cyclone' Simpson (Jon Hamm), is tempered by his adjutant, Adm. Solomon 'Warlock' Bates (Charles Parnell).)

Hans Zimmer’s score is exactly what you’d expect it to be in this type of rah rah military fantasy (and make no mistake, the film does engender respect for these elite pilots), the original theme reverberating, but Lady Gaga’s original song 'Hold My Hand' is the kind of generic power ballad I disdain – your mileage may vary.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is undeniably entertaining, a popcorn movie made with great skill and perseverance for excellence.  Just take Maverick’s advice to Rooster - 'Don't think, just do it.'

Robin's Review: B+

It has been 36 years since hotshot Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) tore up the skies and saved the US Navy from destruction by some vaguely Middle Eastern bad guys. The now older and wiser fighter pilot must take on a new mission and deal with old demons in “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Fans of the 1986 original, directed by the late Tony Scott, have come full circle along with our favorite Maverick. Mitchell is heading a top secret Navy project to develop a Mach 10 hypersonic airplane. At the point of the critical test, the rug is pulled and Maverick reassigned, but not before going ten times the speed of sound. He has, as they say, a need for speed!

His new assignment leads him back to Miramar and the US Navy Fighter Weapons School where he thinks, because of his special set of skills, he will lead a top secret mission. But, when he gets to the base, he meets the commander, Vice Admiral Simpson (Jon Hamm), who is immediately hostile to Mitchell and assigns him as team trainer, not leader. (We, the viewer, already know that Maverick will, in fact, lead the mission, whatever it is, just as we know just about everything that will happen in this homage to the original. Hey, if it is not broken, why fix it?

The writers get a bit nostalgic with Maverick having a record of refusing promotion so he could continue do the thing he loves best – just like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk who refused promotion so he could continue doing the thing he loves best. Along the way, we meet the attack team who all have the requisite colorful “call signs,” like Hangman, Warlock, Phoenix and (?) Bob.

From top to bottom, or wingtip to wingtip, this is the ultimate Tom Cruise movie. After all, before the original in 1986, the actor had not “made it” yet. Then, “Top Gun” hit the big screen and the adrenalin junkie in him was set free. We have watched him doing his own stunts ever since.

“Maverick” takes the excitement of the typical Tom Cruise movie – pick any one of the “Mission Impossible” and you will see what I mean – and amps it up for Cruise, the cast and the filmmakers. All the flying scene you watch are with real planes, real actors and really fast and it puts you in the cockpit.
If you are a fan of the original, break out your checklist and tick off all the “homage” to that ’86 flick. There are many and the whole package is entertainment in spades.

Paramount opens "Top Gun: Maverick" in theaters on 5/27/22.