Top Gun: Maverick

Cruise takes flight with a cinema rarity, a sequel that’s better than the original.

It’s been more than 35 years since a then, up and coming young actor by the name of Tom Cruise donned a pair of aviator sunglasses, flight jacket and hopped on the back of a Kawasaki before uttering the iconic lines, “I feel the need, the need for speed.” Made on a budget of just $15 million (which would not cover Cruise’s going rate nowadays), Top Gun soared to become the highest-grossing film of 1986. But in the age of the box set rather than Blockbuster, will audiences feel the need to leave the sofa to see the perma-grin Cruise reprise the role of fighter flyer Pete Mitchell? 

That question is resoundingly answered by a reminiscent opening sequence of swooping fighter jets while the original 80s rock-lite track Danger Zone guns over the sound of the engines. Seats are put in the upright position, with viewers strapped in and ready for takeoff. The story begins on familiar terrain. Mitchell is now serving as a test pilot; and against direct orders, pushes a jet beyond Mach 10 speed, serving up an in-flight snack of a scene achieved with slick edits, real-life effects and emotive close-ups rather than relying on unrealistic CGI. About to be grounded by the Navy for good, Maverick is thrown a lifeline by his old rival turned mentor, Admiral Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky – in a touching cameo by Val Kilmer – to train and prepare a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a daring mission. But one of the recruits is Bradley ‘Rooster‘ Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s friend and former wingman who died during a risky training manoeuvre. Echoing the original movie’s key theme, Mitchell must confront his own guilt and find his true purpose if he is to succeed.  

Director Joseph Kosinski ably steps into the late Tony Scott’s shoes and delivers all the touchpoints expected of a blockbuster from the legendary production outfit Simpson and Bruckheimer. Plaudits are deserved for managing to keep proceedings from veering off course into the territory of pastiche with the addition of some emotional baggage; Mitchell’s realisation of his own advancing years and the incorporation of Kilmer’s real-life cancer struggle, in one of the standout scenes. There is, however, a somewhat checklist feel to the casting of the young pilots; one woman, one Latino, one African-American, etc. – including an underused Jay Ellis of Insecure fame – whose characters are almost interchangeable. Much too, has been said about the non-inclusion of Kelly McGillis, who starred as Maverick’s love interest in the first outing, showing that Hollywood’s attitude to older actresses has barely changed between the intervening years of the two movies. But despite these concerns, the film’s greatest achievement is in reminding us of the absolute joy of going to the cinema. There is no way a mobile phone or even a 72inch television, regardless of its resolution, can replace the shared experience of seeing a movie on the big screen. You simply cannot recreate spontaneous mass rounds of applause and a lot of whooping in your living room.

At the movie’s start, Ed Harris’ gnarly Rear Admiral spits out the line, “The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind is headed for extinction.” The same could have been said of Cruise’s career, hailing from a bygone pre-Marvel era of cinema when a star’s name above the title could guarantee box office success. Maverick replies, “Maybe so, sir. But not today.” With Top Gun 2, Cruise proves he may have a few good days left in him yet. 

Top Gun 2: Maverick in cinemas on 27th May 2022 


In this sequel that is better than the original, the film’s greatest achievement is in reminding us of the absolute joy of going to the cinema. With Top Gun 2, Cruise proves he may have a few good days left in him yet. 

OUT OF 100

80 %
80 %
80 %
95 %
80 %
70 %
Production Design
95 %
95 %
For the Culture
40 %

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