Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis, Ed Harris
Runtime: 2 hrs 11 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language and Intense Sequences)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 26 May 2022
Synopsis: After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose”. Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from tho se who will be chosen to fly it
No other actor can return to a role like Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell as Tom Cruise does in ‘Top Gun: Maverick”. Lest we forget, it has been more than three decades since Tony Scott’s quintessential 80s blockbuster minted the then-baby faced Cruise as a bona fide icon, and if there was any doubt that Cruise waited too long to do a sequel to ‘Top Gun’, we can reassure you that there will be no such reservations once you’ve seen this magnificent follow-up.
Whereas once he was a young hot-shot, ‘Maverick’ finds its eponymous character now a weathered naval test pilot who lives in a hangar out in the Mojave Desert and is attached to the navy’s latest supersonic plane programme. That he remains a captain is no coincidence; indeed, as we are told, Maverick has carefully staged his own career stasis in order not to be promoted into desk-job irrelevancy. And when a hard-ass admiral (Ed Harris) tries to shut the programme down, Maverick demonstrates how he hasn’t lost his impunity after all these years by personally taking the plane out for a Mach 10 experiment.
At the cusp of being permanently grounded, Maverick is summoned back to Top Gun to prepare the programme’s best and brightest for a top-secret mission to launch a stealth attack on a secret uranium enrichment facility hidden within a deep mountain valley. The mission turns out to be both professional and personal, affording Maverick the chance to come to terms with the lingering guilt over the death of his best friend Goose (played by Anthony Edwards in the first movie), given how one of the pilots is none other than Goose’s bitter son Rooster (Miles Teller).
Goose isn’t the only call-back from the original film; there is Penny (Jennifer Connelly), an old flame that Maverick has the opportunity to rekindle feelings with after an apparently messy breakup several years ago, and Maverick’s old frenemy Iceman (Val Kilmer), now the decorated commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet who is revealed to have been instrumental in getting Maverick out of trouble all these years. It is lovely to watch Cruise and Connelly navigate a grown-up romance with such chemistry, but this sequel’s most poignant moment belongs to the reunion between Cruise and Kilmer, especially with how beautifully the filmmakers have weaved in the actor’s physically diminished condition into the movie.
Thanks to its richer relationships, ‘Maverick’ packs genuine wallop, more so we dare say than its predecessor. Goose’s resentment towards Maverick for his father’s death, which colours not just their instructor-trainee relationship but also Goose’s relationship with the 11 other aviators, especially the smug Hangman (Glen Powell, terrific as an Iceman-type). It is to the credit of the trio of screenwriters – including Cruise’s favourite auteur-wingman Christopher McQuarrie – how successfully the sequel draws on the events of the first movie to form the emotional bedrock of this one, right up to its thrilling, take-your-breath-away climax that we will talk about more later.
Equally though, the screenwriters have largely hewed to the structure of the earlier ‘To Gun’, with the recruits put to the test with gruelling flight tests and simulated dogfights while having to deal with rivalry, seduction and personal reckonings. There is sheer thrill watching Maverick chase his young charges in F/A-18s all over the Mojave Desert, made even more awesome knowing that it is Cruise in the cockpit for each and every one of these scenes, whether piloting a fighter jet 200 feet above the floor of Death Valley or corkscrewing through Washington’s Cascade Mountains. That the training feels more urgent is thanks to how the writers have learnt from the first movie: instead of tacking on a mission at the last minute, the stakes are higher here right from the beginning knowing that the training is for a mission that they might not survive.
All that anticipation however pays off more spectacularly with an edge-of-your-seat climax that will surprise you in more ways than one. It is in these final 20 mins that you’d realise, if you haven’t yet, the brilliance of director Joseph Kosinski’s craft, not least in how he films the face-melting ascents, whiplash-inducing loop-de-loops and other airborne stunts with amazing clarity in cinematography and editing. Sure, Cruise’s insistence on making this as real as possible – including the use of camera rigs than CGI – is key to it, but there is no denying the crispness of Kosinski’s direction, which with all due respect to Scott, pays off with the far superior aerial sequences in this sequel than the ones in the first movie.
Above and at the heart of it all, is Cruise. As if we needed yet another reminder, Cruise defies his age yet again by getting into the cockpit and performing the sort of high-speed manoeuvres that many professional pilots half his age would struggle to do. It is no coincidence that it has taken nearly 40 years for ‘Maverick’ to make it to the big screen, but this carefully calibrated blockbuster is just about everything you would expect it to be and more. It is exhilarating, rousing and downright stunning, a triumphant reminder of what old-fashioned Hollywood moviemaking was about and a celebration of Cruise as the last Hollywood movie star of his kind.
(An absolutely glorious old-school blockbuster that honours the legacy of its predecessor while equaling, if not exceeding, it in thrills, emotion and spectacle)
Review by Gabriel Chong