Top Gun Maverick Review: One Of The Greatest Sequels Of All Time
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Featured Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
Your prayers will be answered, let Tom Cruise whisper how: Top Gun: Maverick isn’t just one of the best blockbusters of the year – it’s one of the best sequels of all time.
Evidently, his ego can cash checks ad infinitum. Be it divine daredevilry, the murky powers of Scientology or dumb luck, Cruise is the maddest star at the movies. He’s flung and clung from buildings and planes, broken bones and pushed his lungs in the name of thrills, and here, the line has never been further blurred between man, maniac and genius. He is ‘dangerous’, after all.
And to think he rose to fame as a cheeky chappy. Risky Business put him on audiences’ radar, but Top Gun was a bona-fide sensation; both for the US Navy and Cruise’s global profile. Nearly four decades later, Maverick is a full-circle turn: his stunts are more audacious than ever, his sex appeal is renewed, and it’s his most-effective dramatic performance since Collateral.
The 1986 classic concludes with Cruise’s matured, loveable Maverick in second place at Top Gun, hugging Iceman (Val Kilmer) in a barely-slight homoerotic embrace. After all this time, the wingmen still have each other’s back; albeit, the former finds himself in need of the latter’s aid far more often.
While decorated beyond his most senior officers, Maverick has held onto his Captain rank; but don’t think he’s nearing a flame-out. On the brink of a dishonourable discharge, Iceman orders him to return to Top Gun to prepare a team of graduates for a mission the likes of which nobody has ever seen – even the top one percent, the elite. Among the brave and cocky pilots is Bradley, call sign Rooster (Miles Teller), the resentful son of the late Goose.
Let’s acknowledge the obvious: director Joseph Kosinski, earlier behind Tron: Legacy, Oblivion and Only the Brave (all of which are crazy underrated), isn’t Tony Scott. He was a genuine one-of-a-kind filmmaker, and Maverick’s predecessor is nothing without his uncut hutzpah. This is a preamble for a staggering statement: this is a far better, richer movie than the original.
Kosinski, alongside Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie on the script, aren’t as bothered with the blatant jingoism many pointed at way back when, nor does it feel like cash-grab nostalgia bait. Every callback, from Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone and the Top Gun Anthem to ‘Talk to me, Goose’, is hugely evocative and rather meaningful. Don’t be surprised if a few tears are shed by the end credits, if only for the sheer emotional wallop of every moment.
Even the first minutes, almost a frame-by-frame recreation of the original’s aircraft carrier opening, feel earnest over cynical; the ASMR of whirring, clunking and howling roar, the golden hour silhouettes pointing and fist-pumping, and that iconic music blasting right into the heart.
Further to its aural pleasures, Harold Faltermeyer, Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe are at their prime goosebump-rising best, and Lady Gaga’s Hold My Hand should be a harbinger for the return of chest-clutchingly hard ballads with every big movie. Keep an ear out for Horatio’s needle drop, too.
Of course, it’d be the Top Gun sequel to make blockbusters sexy again. Cruise’s chemistry with Jennifer Connelly's Penny (admittedly used for little more than a love interest and sympathetic eye for Maverick) steams off the screen: every purse of their lips, the wordless longing, every glance – even the ones where they’re not looking. Yes, there’s also a topless, flexing game of football on the beach, woven with angst and gazing.
Cruise delivers echoes of Harrison Ford’s phenomenal reprisal in Blade Runner 2049. It’s the Maverick we know and love, hardened by years of grief and pushback while sporting that irresistible smile under the aviators. If nothing else, it’s the greatest testament to his indelible status as a movie star – if not the movie star.
Cinematographer Claudio Miranda, Kosinksi’s reliable collaborator, does career-best work, revelling in the sleek, commanding beauty of military aircraft and capturing increasingly bonkers set-pieces with ease. Aerial photography has quite literally never been this good. As someone whose favourite James Bond cold open is from Tomorrow Never Dies, I was very pleased indeed.
For all the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s worth, Top Gun’s long-awaited, stupidly-doubted sequel represents a lost era of mainstream, shameless filmmaking: ultimately IP-driven, but huge-hearted, stand-alone bombast capable of rousing any crowd without serialised tidbits, teases and cameos, not to mention packing some of the most impressive, dynamic action the big screen has ever seen. This is on par with the mouth-agape practicality and wonder of Mad Max: Fury Road, if a hard-on wasn’t an appropriate frame of reference.
Top Gun: Maverick is blockbuster nirvana. In other words, it will take your breath away.
Top Gun: Maverick hits cinemas on May 25.
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Topics: Film & TV, Tom Cruise, Film and TV, Entertainment