Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence & offensive language
Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
Miles Teller as Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw
Jennifer Connelly as Penelope “Penny” Benjamin
Jon Hamm as Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson
Glen Powell as Lieutenant Jake “Hangman” Seresin
Lewis Pullman as Lieutenant Robert “Bob” Floyd
Ed Harris as Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain
Val Kilmer as four-star Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky
Monica Barbaro as Lieutenant Natasha “Phoenix” Trace
Director: Joseph Kosinski
After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. Training a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past and his deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who choose to fly it.
Top Gun: Maverick was a movie I was a little curious about; a sequel to the original over 3 decades in the making. There certainly was a talented crew involved, Tom Cruise of course returns, Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) is directing, and it has a cast that includes Miles Teller, Jon Hamm and more. However, I wasn’t admittedly super hyped for it. I liked the original Top Gun but to me it was just pretty good, a lot of 80s cheese and some good action sequences, not much beyond that. Yet the new film seemed to be receiving overwhelmingly positive praise, akin to the level of praise that Mission Impossible: Fallout had. So I checked it out, and I can confirm that Maverick is more than deserving of all the acclaim.
While I expected great things from the cast and the direction, the most surprising aspect is that of the story, which was actually really good. It improves in every single way over the first movie. Even when certain story beats are similar to the first movie, it’s executed much better here. It loses the 80s cheese of the original and instead instils the movie with a real sense of gravitas. It also helps that it actually feels like the story has a structure rather instead of feeling like a compilation of highlight scenes strung together. There are real drama here with a lot more emotion and heart, and the characters are given more depth and are fleshed out. The emotional core of the movie involves Maverick and Rooster (Tom Cruise and Miles Teller), and it pays off wonderfully by the end. It’s also a fun movie to watch, with a lot of entertaining scenes and comedy throughout. You also feel the stakes a lot more here. In contrast to the first movie where the pilots are just training before suddenly needing to complete a mission in the last act, the training in Maverick is for a near impossible task, giving the aerial training sequences a lot more weight. So, by the time it reaches the third act, we really feel the stakes and tension. Some could say that the movie drags in the second act, and I can see that even though there was never a dull moment for me. However all the build up towards the final act is completely worth it, as it ends with one of the most exciting climaxes in recent memory. As for how it works as a sequel, Maverick does the original justice. It really is a mix of old and new, honouring the original while moving forward to do its own thing. It actually felt like there was a genuine reason for this sequel to be made, especially considering that the first movie was made all the way back in 1986. Most of the fan service moments are handled well and don’t get too distracting, and makes sure it doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the past. Top Gun: Maverick is very much a legacy sequel, not only by being a sequel to an original classic from decades back, but also being itself an examination of legacy, specifically for Maverick/Tom Cruise. It is a surprisingly introspective movie. As for whether you need to know the original film in order to watch the sequel, it does certainly help know about the characters and story from the first, Even then, Maverick does touch upon the main points well enough that you’ll be able to pick up what happened in the past even if you hadn’t watched the first movie.
The cast are all great in their parts. Tom Cruise reprises his role of Maverick. Cruise is really sells his role incredibly well, while he was fun enough in the first movie, here he delivers potentially one of his best performances. He brings such an emotional weight to his scenes. Jennifer Connelly plays Maverick’s love interest in a romantic subplot and while it its perhaps unneeded and shoved not the movie, I thought it was believable and well-handled enough with enough subtlety, especially when compared to the romantic subplot in the original movie. Val Kilmer is the only other returning cast member from the original film aside from Cruise, reprising his role as Iceman. Without giving too much away, his role in this sequel is a small, yet memorable part of the film, and is effectively emotional and hard hitting. The rest of the cast including Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Jon Hamm and more all play their parts well. However the standout in the cast aside from Cruise is Miles Teller who plays Rooster, Goose’s son. This is probably Teller’s best performance since Whiplash, he is great here. The relationship between Maverick and Rooster are the emotional centre of this movie and that is handled fantastically, helped by the believable chemistry between the two actors.
Joseph Kosinski directed this, his work here is phenomenal and probably his best yet. I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it truly is an experience and it just wouldn’t be the same if you watched it on a smaller screen. Kosinski gives the movie so much energy throughout. The visuals are truly amazing, and the cinematography is stunning, particularly when it comes to the scenes filmed in the air. The movie is worth watching for the intense aerial sequences alone, they’re all fantastic. You actually feel right there with the actors in the air. What makes these scenes work so well is that these flight sequences are all practical, with the actors even having to do actual training to learn how to fly. None of it looks fake at all and the cinematography, editing, sound and everything else all come together to make for scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. The soundtrack is also great, of course the original movie utilised plenty of iconic 80s songs, and some of those songs make appearances here (including Danger Zone). However, it doesn’t overuse or over-rely on them and also allowed for more uses of the composed score from Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, and Hans Zimmer. The score itself was great, taking tunes from the score of the previous movie and revamping it. They particularly complement the action sequences and make them feel even more thrilling.
Top Gun: Maverick is so many things. It surpasses the first movie in every aspect, its one of the best legacy sequels, and its up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission Impossible: Fallout as some of the best action films of recent years. The story and characters are given enough depth and heart, the cast are great in their parts (especially Cruise and Teller), and the excellent direction and phenomenal action sequences are incredible to watch. Even if you’re not a fan of the original movie or haven’t even watched it, I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it is truly an exhilarating experience. One of the best films of 2022 thus far.