OKLAHOMA CITY – Back in 1986, when I was 14, all the world was agog over Tom Cruise and the film “Top Gun.”
Like most adolescents, my friends and I were jazzed by the acting, the adventure and the “need for speed.” I loved Top Gun songs like Kenny Loggins’ urgent “Danger Zone” and Berlin’s synth-ballad “Take My Breath Away.” They remain key songs from my formative years.
And now, 36 years later, audiences the world over are being reunited with cocky U.S. Navy fighter pilot Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who was part of the elite TOPGUN military flying program and had left the program in the interim. The film, which was made nearly four years ago, is Top Gun: Maverick. And it is a wild ride and a fantastic film for people of all ages.
Watching it at the high-end Flix Brewhouse in Oklahoma City, one gets a high-def joyride in an F-18 and then some. Flix Brewhouse general manager Nick Toros told Southwest Chronicle that Top Gun: Maverick was expected to be a big draw at his theater and a great film to kick off the summer movie season.
In fact, Variety reports Top Gun: Maverick broke Memorial Day weekend sales drawing in $160 million.
But back to the film …
While Maverick is still hanging around and testing the government’s top new aircraft, the brass sees him as reckless and ready to be sent out to pasture. But Mav’s old rival-turned-wingman, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, believes in Maverick’s continued aerial abilities and his natural skills as an F-18 fighter pilot. Ice sees Mav as a pilot who can inspire a new group of TOPGUN pilots who initially view Maverick as a washed-up old man – until he proves to the newbie elites that he can truly bestow upon them that “need for speed.”
This includes Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, played by Miles Teller. He is the son of the late “Goose” Bradshaw, who died in an accident that Rooster has never gotten over. Neither has Maverick. Rooster makes it clear that he still holds Maverick responsible for his father’s death.
Rooster’s rival – much like Maverick and Iceman were three decades earlier – is the self-assured Lt. Jake “Hangman” Seresin, played by Glen Powell.
Cruise, still looking young and fit in his late 50s, is older and wiser and close to Val Kilmer’s Iceman, who is now an admiral and commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and in declining health, playing on Kilmer’s literal battle with throat cancer which has affected his ability to speak in real life and on screen. The scenes between Ice and Mav are touching and real without being mawkish.
In fact, what was refreshing about Top Gun: Maverick is the fact that the film’s creators played the story straight. The TOPGUN team has a mission, led by Maverick, against “the enemy” (an unsaid foreign country), and while there are many dramatic twists and turns in the plot, the overarching story is believable and honest in a way that we don’t often get from Hollywood anymore.
Some standout performances include Maverick’s love interest Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly); Lewis Pullman’s nerdy Lt. Robert “Bob” Floyd, Monica Barbaro’s unflinching Lt. Natasha “Phoenix” Trace, Jon Hamm’s by-the-book Adm. Beau “Cyclone” Simpson, Ed Harris’ Rear Adm. Chester “Hammer” Cain and Bashir Salahuddin’s “Hondo,” who provides some comic relief.
It should also be noted that the key pilots in this film – that puts you right in the seat next to them – actually learned to fly the jets in the film, which is remarkable in itself. No detectable CGI was utilized, which was also appealing and giving it a welcome “throwback” feel. If you haven’t been to the movies in a while, if you are looking for a rollicking “popcorn movie,” this is it.
All in all, the writers, along with director Joseph Kosinski perfectly captured what a Top Gun sequel should be about: a thrilling and fun adventure with a crowd-pleasing ending.