‘I’ ON CULTURE
Watching the new Top Gun: Maverick is in some ways like a revisit to the 1980s. Pilots are tough, competitive and not wildly interested in politics. And Tom Cruise still looks pretty much like he did way back then.
For those who never saw the first Top Gun film, Peter “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) was a hotshot pilot who fit his call sign (nickname) by not overly worrying about the rules. But he was an expert pilot, and he and Radar Intercept Officer “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) were sent to Top Gun school. Due to Maverick’s carelessness in mock battle with his arch-nemesis “Iceman” (Val Kilmer), his plane malfunctions, and Goose is killed in a tragic accident. Eventually, Maverick and Iceman work together and become both heroes and friends.
In this new movie, Cruise, now a naval captain who has never moved past that, is tasked with training a group of young hotshot pilots for an insanely difficult mission. Confusing the issue for him is “Rooster,” (Miles Teller) the son of “Goose,” who has his own confrontational issues with “Hangman” (Glen Powell), a pilot whose attitude is close to that of young Maverick.
The mission is to blow up a nuclear facility in an unnamed country days before it gets its first shipment of uranium. Inside a small valley surrounded by high mountains. To add to the (pardon the pun) impossible mission, there are advanced anti-aircraft missiles surrounding it and a whole lot of “generation five” aircraft nearby. I assume that means they are most modern ones. As a result, the mission has to be very surreptitious and finished very quickly. The planes will fly low until they get close, and then have to fly through (not over) a group of mountains, then quickly climb to a set height and then dive on the tiny target.
Only four planes (two pairs) can take part, so only the best pilots/weapons officers can be chosen. Maverick agonizes because Rooster is one of the best, but he had promised the young man’s mother (a quick flashback to young Meg Ryan) that he would try to protect the young man. Maverick, now involved with bar owner Penny (Jennifer Connelly), uses her as a sounding board as he tries to figure out what he should do.
To make matters worse Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm), wants a slower approach to the mission, even though it would probably sacrifice most, if not all, the American flyers. Cyclone claims that the mission’s plan is impossible, but Maverick completes the mock-up mission in the time allowed. With some backing from a very ill Iceman, Maverick gets his way and is named mission leader, which sets up an amazing wide ride with lot of twists and turns.
The cast is very good. Cruise obviously dominates, and I wonder whether or not he has a portrait in his home that ages while the man doesn’t. His scene with Kilmer, who is himself suffering from the effects of serious illness, is incredibly powerful, not only because of the exceptional writing but, perhaps even more telling, the fact that Kilmer looks so much older than the film’s star. Cruise was exceptional; he’s a superb actor, and the part fits him beautifully. Kilmer was very powerful and moving in his far more limited role.
Teller was very good as young “Rooster,” and even looks a lot like Edwards, who had been his father in the first film. Powell was good, but I would guess his part was cut back so, although it is a copy of Kilmer’s in the first film, it does not really play out. Connelly was really good as the love interest, and kudos to Joseph Kosinski, the director, and Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer, for having an age-appropriate woman in the part. She is able to be both strong and funny, as well as vulnerable.
Kosinski keeps the film moving. The complex flying scenes are brilliant, but time is taken for some moving material.
This is a really good film. I liked it a lot.