I don’t know if like me you’re old enough to remember Top Gun. It was one of a giant wave of 80’s macho films mostly standing out from its crowd by ditching muscles and machine guns for an iconic 80’s soundtrack, fantastic cinematography and a relatively new and up and coming actor by the name of Tom Cruise.
Anyone who was alive back then and saw it or was even aware of it, can’t forget the impact it made even if in truth it was less a film and more a connected bunch of shots of sunrises, motorbikes, sunrises, sunsets and aerial action sequences.
As it happened I always preferred the much less remember Firefox which a few years earlier starred Clint Eastwood as he went undercover to steal a cutting edge Soviet era fighter plane but maybe that is just me.
These days there aren’t many true film stars left and there aren’t many big budget action films either if like me you can’t stand comic book movies which have long since subsumed the cinema. I’m not much of a fan of Tom Cruise the person, that’s ok he doesn’t need my approval. I saw him at the film premier in Leicester Square last week and actually met twice many years ago when he used to live just a street or two away. Once was during his then infamous visit to the Bushey Heath branch of Blockbusters Video who declined him renting our a video because he didn’t have two forms of ID to open an account… even though it was said to be his own film he was renting out and it was clear who he way. I always found that funny as I never needed to bring my card and I was countless millions less wealthy than he was.
Nevertheless, he has done ok for himself and is one of the few undeniable film stars; you know exactly what to expect if you go and watch him. A slick, hardworking film with a bit of fizz albeit within the confines of a formulaic genre.
In such a depressing world today where children are shot in foreign schools, murderous dictators fight wars and in my book, every single democratic leader I know is corrupt, inept, criminal or showing leanings towards despotism, I felt today was the day that I needed to get away from it all and if that’s the case then Top Gun Maverick fits the bill.
36 years ago Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell was an arrogant daredevil and star pupil at the elite US Navy fighter pilot school Top Gun, and a magnet for ladies and disaster.
Although everything else in the world has changed, Maverick is pretty much the same; living alone but still in the service, and still flying very fast airplanes for a living. He’s been testing a new prototype Mach 10 stealth fighter, and just as the programme is about to be shut down, Pete breaks all existing speed records in the thing, before crashing it. He survives, and is just about to be drummed out of the Navy when an old friend comes to the rescue.
His erstwhile rival Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky (Val Kilmer) is now a two-star Admiral, and on his orders Maverick is posted to North Island, San Diego, home of his old flight school, Top Gun.
“I can’t teach!” Pete bleats in protest, and his new commanding officer Vice Admiral Beau ‘Cyclone’ Simpson (Jon Hamm) is much of the same opinion. He reckons Maverick’s a loose cannon and wants rid of him, but there’s a job to be done.
It seems the Iranians have begun to enrich weapons-grade uranium at an underground site surrounded by high and heavily fortified mountains. The only way to take it out is with bouncing bombs… no wait thats The Dambusters, it’s actually to fly in at low level thereby avoiding banked missiles, and enemy fighter planes.
It seems a job tailor-made for Maverick, and one he expects to fly himself. Instead, he must stay on the ground, and instruct a group of cocky star Top Gun graduates in the fine details of what smells suspiciously like a suicide mission. And there’s one more problem: among those young pilots is one Lieutenant Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller), son of Maverick’s best friend and wingman ‘Goose’ Bradshaw, who was killed during a training exercise.
Maverick has always blamed himself for Goose’s death, and so it seems does his son as well as something else rather major that crops up during the film. As the group prepares for its seemingly impossible mission, tensions flare.
I went to the cinema with a similar mindset to when I went to watch No Time To Die – James Bond Movie Review but unlike that film, this one very much has a positive buzz. It’s much less nationalistic and bombastic than the original Top Gun and actually has quite a few laughs, subtly and as expected spectacular flight scenes.
There are even a few moving moments such as when Val Kilmer from the original cast, shares a brief scene with Cruise that manages to be genuinely touching and a poignant reflection on the passage of time.
It’s been said to be the best action film for decades and I can see where they are coming from. It’s far superior to the original film and embraces all of the 80’s touches some of us remembering a time when most of our worries were doing our Geography homework and not getting your head flushed down the toilet….Bushey Meads was a horrendous school for almost everyone in attendance!
The clutch of next generation pilots are suitably cocky with their witty nicknames, there is a light touch romantic figure for Maverick and there are plenty of gorgeous shots of planes, aircraft carriers and motorbikes along with the famous Top Gun bongs and musical numbers including of course this…
I loved every moment, it’s a sequel I had no idea I needed to be made but I’m glad they did.