Movie Review: Top Gun: Maverick Takes Flight

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Sequel to the 1986 blockbuster features plenty of callbacks while pushing the boundaries

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Do you feel the need? The need for speed?

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Well you don’t get that line of Top Gun: Maverick, although there are still plenty of callbacks to the explosive 1986 original. But also – and this is vital – there’s also a whole new story here. Suites are sometimes content to perform a lap of honor. Maverick pushes the boundaries.

True, the first few minutes are almost identical. Jets take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier, while ground crew boogie and dance as if they too can hear Kenny Loggins accents Dangerous zone in their helmets. And the text on the screen reminds us that the US Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, as Top Gun is officially known, turns its men into the best pilots in the world.

“And women.” See? Progress!

Tom Cruise’s character, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, is now a test pilot but still excels at pissing off his superiors. In an early scene, it’s Ed Harris as Rear Admiral Chester Cain, who stands tall and still as Maverick flies in a hypersonic jet, blasting the roof off a guardhouse in the process.

It turns out that the rules of dogfighting also apply to life; a moving target is harder to hit. Before Maverick can catch the hell for his little stunt, he’s called back to Top Gun, this time as an instructor, and working under another badass Admiral, played by Jon Hamm.

His more diverse students than last time include Hangman (Glen Powell), Phoenix (Monica Barbaro), Payback (Jay Ellis), Fanboy (Danny Ramirez), Coyote (Greg Tarzan), and Bob (Lewis Pullman). But the one to watch is Miles Teller as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, son of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. You may remember Goose (Anthony Edwards) died when he and Maverick ejected from their plane in the first film. Maverick never forgave himself. Turns out neither did Rooster.

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And speaking of long simmering feelings, Jennifer Connelly joins the cast as Penny Benjamin, briefly mentioned in the first Superior gun as the daughter of an admiral with whom Maverick once “gone ballistic”. Now she’s a single mom with a teenage daughter and a bar where all the pilots hang out. Practice.

Maverick is eager to reignite things with Penny, but he also has a group of pilots to get in shape for what could well be a suicide mission. There appears to be a uranium enrichment facility that needs to be destroyed, though the filmmakers are keen to avoid any geopolitical repercussions by naming its owner. The closest they come calls it a ‘rogue state’. Florida, maybe?

Either way, pilots must fly their F-18s through a narrow mountain trench, dodging enemy fighters and surface-mounted missiles, and shoot a ventilation hatch just over two meters tall. wide. And no, they are not allowed to use the Force.

Director Joseph Kosinski and his quintet of writers (including frequent Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie) expertly manage the film’s pacing. Although clocking in at a quarter past two, Maverick flies. And it looks and sounds amazing on the big screen, energized metal begging you to tap and go. To see in Imax if you can.

In addition to the episodic nature of the story (the hypersonic thing at the start is essentially its own mini-movie), there are enough characters and conflict that no subplot overstays its welcome. These include Bashir Salahuddin as Maverick’s mechanic pal, Hondo, and Val Kilmer’s returning Iceman, now admiral, in an oddly emotional encounter.

Say what you will about flight delays at major airports as we continue to navigate our way through/out of the pandemic. Top Gun: Maverick was grounded for nearly 35 months. Originally slated for a summer 2019 release, it was delayed for production issues and then multiple times due to COVID.

I am happy to report that it was worth the wait. maverick can be my movie wingman anytime.

Top Gun: Maverick opens May 26 in theaters.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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