Thirty-six years is a long time to wait for anything and for those that saw Top Gun back in cinemas in 1986, may have thought that was the last time they would see a film like this.
Personally, I did not get to see the cinematic thrill ride that is Top Gun until I was in my teens on a small television with a VHS from the local video store. Skip forward to May 2022, after a two-year delay due to Covid, the long awaiting highly anticipated sequel, Top Gun: Maverick is finally ready to hit the big screen.
Ever since I saw the film’s cinematic trailer back in July 2019, I was hyped. I absolutely love the original film and it is one I can easily put on at home and watch repeatedly. After waiting almost three years since that trailer, my excitement hit boiling point when I finally got to see Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen!
Historically, sequels are hit and miss. Most of them are a poor attempt to reengage with audiences, scream of cash grabbing, and fan service. But not this one! Top Gun: Maverick is by far the best sequel I have seen in an exceptionally long time.
The film sees Tom Cruise reprise his role as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a naval aviator that is currently a test pilot for a secret military program. With over thirty years of flying and combat experience, Maverick is ordered to return to Top Gun to train up the best of the best to fly a near impossible mission and wipe out a nuclear threat. Upon arrival at the base in California, Maverick is briefed by Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (John Hamm), and Rear Admiral Solomon “Warlock” Bates (Charles Parnell) on the sensitivity and urgency of the mission. With only a few weeks until the threat is operational, Maverick has an impossible task ahead of him.
Starring alongside Tom Cruise is an elite squadron of pilots portrayed by a range of actors that I have not seen much of before, with some that are even making their action film debut. Without listing the entire Top Gun class, some of the clear standouts are Monica Barbaro as Natasha “Phoenix” Trace, Lewis Pullman as Lieutenant Robert “Bob” Floyd, Danny Ramirez as Lieutenant “Fanboy” Garcia, and Jay Ellis as Lieutenant Reuben “Payback” Fitch. Each of which are fantastic and play a vital role in the film.
Then there is the quintessential rivalry that mirrors the original between Ice Man and Maverick with Glen Powell as Lieutenant “Hangman” Seresin, who will always leave you hanging, and Miles Teller as Goose’s son, Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. I loved this rivalry! Powell is the perfect arrogant asshole that thinks he is the best and Bradshaw has everything to prove, not only to himself but also to Maverick. And with the constant reminder of Goose’s death sitting right in front of him, Maverick must learn to accept that Rooster up to the task.
Of course, Top Gun: Maverick would not be a Top Gun film without a classic Maverick love interest. This comes in the form of Jennifer Connelly as Penelope “Penny” Benjamin. And no, Penny is not a callsign like everyone else in this film, it is her nickname. Whilst we do not know much about Penny and her past, it is clear as day that she has a romantic history with Maverick. The chemistry between Cruise and Connelly is cheeky, natural, and believable.
Then there is the return of Ice Man portrayed by Val Kilmer. Whilst Maverick has remained content as a pilot, Ice Man has risen to the rank of Admiral. Sadly, Val Kilmer has fallen ill with throat cancer in recent years and whilst his on screen performance is limited, his interaction with Cruise as two best mates feels genuine, heart-warming and brought tears to my eyes.
Aside from the incredible performances, what makes this film one of the best films I have seen in a very long time is the fact all the flight sequences are real. That is right, they filmed everything using real fighter jets and are also flown with and by the actors themselves. We all know how Tom Cruise loves to do his own stunts and this film is no exception. Watching Cruise fly these aircraft is incredibly exhilarating and these scenes had my adrenaline pumping throughout entirety of the film.
There is one sequence in the second half of the film that is just Tom Cruise, in an F/A-18 Hornet, of just pure flight action. 100% one of the best cinematic sequences I have experienced in over a decade.
It is easy to say that Top Gun: Maverick is a great film, but I will go one step further and say that this film is an absolute masterpiece. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Cruise, along with incredible cinematography by Claudio Miranda, a score by Hans Zimmer, and with a return of some catchy iconic classic tunes, Top Gun: Maverick has all the ingredients to make it the film of the year, and it most definitely is the best film I have seen in a long time.
I am extremely thankful that Top Gun: Maverick exceeded my expectations and it has me itching to go back to the cinema after its general release so that I can see it again and again. One thing is for sure, I will be making a trip to IMAX to experience this on the largest screen in the world as I want to give this film the viewing experience it deserves.
Top Gun: Maverick hits cinemas around Australia this Thursday May 26th with select cinemas holding advanced screenings on Wednesday the 25th of May. Make sure to check your local guides for session times as this film is a must-see cinematic experience.