Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 11 minutes, Director – Joseph Kosinski
Test pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is called by the US navy to teach a group of the best pilots the US has to offer in order to train them for a deadly and fast approaching mission.
Back in 1986 one of the key praises that was directed towards Top Gun was celebration of it’s various flight sequences. Shot in a distinct Tony Scott style the sequences very much still hold up today and continue to act as a key draw into the film. That flavour still exists today with the sequel simply increasing your engagement with such spectacles as you’re placed directly into the fighter jets with the characters. Close in in the confined space as they soar and roll and train for the deadly mission at hand. With just how close you and the cameras are to the characters, particularly on the big screen, the feeling of risk and danger is certainly increased as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell’s worries act similarly.
After spending most of his life as a test pilot, helping build the planes of the future, Maverick is called back by the US navy to teach the pilots of the future how to execute the destruction of a uranium storage facility. Staying low, weaving through enclosed valley terrain, avoiding enemy aircraft and landing missiles on the smallest of targets are just a selection of items on the agenda of just three weeks. Yet, perhaps the biggest challenge that Maverick faces is trying to get his sparring team of some of the best pilots the US has to offer to work together. While some are cocky and certain of their leadership (Glen Powell’s ‘Hangman’) others have their own personal histories with their new teacher, namely Miles Teller’s ‘Rooster’ – the son of Maverick’s former wingman ‘Goose’, an element which truly clicks once you see the resemblance in a key shot in the latter stages of the film.
As the mission grows closer and progress staggers the tension certainly increases. It comes through in the flight sequences, which visually still contain a slight Tony Scott vibe from director Joseph Kosinski and cinematographer Claudio Miranda, and the dangers which they present to their pilots. Yet, visually, there’s still a particularly flare to the film throughout it’s 131 minute run-time. There’s no denying the style that’s on display and the generally strong look of the film. It helps bring a consistency to some of the more tangential elements of the piece.
Much like with the original Top Gun where the relationship between Maverick and Kelly McGillis’ instructor Charlie perhaps wasn’t the most compelling element (and felt like it was dropped about halfway through) the sequel takes time to look at a rekindling romance between Cruise and new character Penny (Jennifer Connelly). While Connelly’s character is certainly fun, particularly in scenes set in the bar which she owns, with its various amusing rules and consequences, her screen-time is somewhat limited and certainly feels slightly on the backburner compared to the core mission at hand. Val Kilmer’s brief returning appearance as Admiral Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky (where he truly makes the most of his screen-time) feels slightly more fleshed out and impactful – although is wound more into the main narrative.
It’s undeniably the central mission where the central draw towards the film is. The action that pulls you in and the style which keeps you in place, and as things are properly enacted out bring you towards the edge of your seat wit the growing levels of tension. Once again, the flight sequences are the core draw, and often the main focus of the style and action, and they are certainly the best stuff within the film. They bring about the most thrills and entertainment and absolutely make the most of the big screen. Placing you directly in the plane with the characters, up close and personal so you can see the fear, or joy, in their eyes at any one moment. Placed in the middle of the roaring engines, the blast of the explosions and slightly muffled speech and communications. Truly placing you in the danger zone (something which they film revisits right from the opening stages). While certain strands and elements might feel a bit tangential, and contribute to the run-time being slightly pushed, there’s no denying the hook of the spectacle flight sequences and the engagement and entertainment that they provide. While the side elements work well they perhaps don’t quite fly as high as the strongest content within the central narrative of the main mission.
Undeniably strong in terms of visuals and spectacles when Top Gun: Maverick focuses on its main mission there’s plenty of thrills and tension to be found, while the side elements still work they aren’t quite as engaging as the stakes of what surround them.