By Bradley Lane
Tony Scott’s original Top Gun (1986) is an OK film. The scope of the film is very limited by the technology of the era in which it was made, and despite its attempts at genuine emotion, falls short of creating an affecting throughline for its characters. However, thanks to the referential culture of modern cinema Top Gun has been given new life in the form of Joseph Kosinski’s new film Top Gun: Maverick. In this new iteration, I am happy to report that in every way, the 2022 film is an improvement. Kosinski’s film lends emotional weight to the source material, gives life to the original vision of fighter jet action with new technology, and pays homage without ever feeling stale or repetitious.
Top Gun: Maverick is still very much a story about Tom Cruise’s titular character. In an homage to the original, Maverick is still making the upper brass in the Navy upset with his reckless high-flying antics. For an especially egregious transgression Maverick is sent back to the Top Gun flight school to train an elite group of pilots for an extremely dangerous mission, in his final assignment before being permanently grounded. This accomplished group includes Rooster (Miles Teller) the son of Maverick’s deceased flight partner, Goose. Through the tumultuous training period Maverick is forced to grow both emotionally and as a fighter pilot.
In many ways Kosinski was ahead of the curve in modern cinema, having directed one of the first legacy sequels, 2010’s TRON: Legacy. In his TRON sequel Kosinski smartly updated the look of the original film with modern technology and built small aspects of the original into the major plot points. In many ways he used the same approach to long awaited sequels in the execution of Top Gun: Maverick. While this is effective toward the updated narrative, it does end up leaving the film feeling slightly formulaic.
Fortunately, the action in Maverick is so next level that the predictable story is hardly a problem. Utilizing real fighter jets for all its stunts, the action set pieces are utterly jaw dropping. The climactic scene that the training leads into is one of the most impressive feats of modern filmmaking I’ve ever seen. It takes its place next to Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission Impossible: Fallout as one of the most innovative and awe-inspiring action films of recent memory.
Top Gun: Maverick utilizes heartfelt emotion and modern filmmaking magic to create a product that is an improvement on the original on all fronts. It demands to be seen on the largest screen possible and is exclusively in theaters now. – 4/5 stars