Review: Top Gun: Maverick


Hollywood’s profitable propensity for recycling its own young in the name of a sure bet blockbuster is writ large over this latest effort, with Tom Cruise sporting his patented shit-eating grin at every opportunity as director Joseph Kosiniski re-visits the paper thin characters from Tony Scott’s flashy hi-concept 1980s original. The Cruisester is in pretty much every scene, and the film is no worse for it, as an older, but not necessarily wiser, Navy fighter pilot showing the next generation of hot young aerial bucks and buckesses how the flying thing is done. Add in a dash of generational conflict, some genuinely poignant moments with Val Kilmer essaying his ‘Iceman’ role as a dying Rear Admiral, and a nearly impossible mission to destroy a uranium enrichment plant, and you have a competent set up that manages to entertain rather well amid all the military machinery pornography.

Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell is now a test pilot who has managed to avoid any responsibility or advancement, and who is much happier taking the new hypersonic experimental plane to its limits, whilst working on a WW2 P51 Mustang in his spare time. When his reckless shenanigans get the new plane destroyed and Admiral Chester Cain (a suitably craggy Ed Harris) threatens to ‘can his ass’, Maverick’s old rival, now friend, Tom ‘Iceman’ Kavansky (Kilmer) transfers him to his former alma mater, the Top Gun fighter school in San Diego. Training a whole new set of hot-shots, amongst whom is his dead friend Goose’s son Bradley (Miles Teller), who holds a grudge against Mitchell around his dad’s death, Maverick does his best to get them ready for the aforementioned ‘Mission: Impossible’ (surely a coincidence?) until convenient circumstances mean that he becomes mission leader…

Both cheesier and hammier than a French farmers market, the film shamelessly borrows, begs and steals from the original effort, with a ton of references for all you film geeks and fans to spot (it’s a shame Tarantino’s infamous homoerotic takedown rant wasn’t somehow referenced, but hey…). Cruise is always watchable, and there is a certain pleasure to be had in how the various bits of sleek hardware is fetishized to the maximum. The flying, action and stunts are, it has to be said, superb, and there is occasionally genuine suspenseful moments amid all the simplistic military and warmongering brou-hah-ha.

Like the original, the enemy is never properly identified and always de-humanised in the service of good ‘ol American international righteousness, a somewhat jarring note, but the film never lets that get in the way of entertaining the audience. Chuck in some solid supporting performances (Jennifer Connolly does her best with a thankless Kelly McGillis substitute role, and Jon Hamm visibly enjoys his stereotypical ‘stick-up-the-ass’ superior officer turn), and you have a surprisingly well-rounded bit of action cinema that has turned out, dare I say it, better than its original…

Top Gun: Maverick is currently showing at Odeon – Bristol and Scott Cinemas.

Toby Reynolds