Thirty six years after the original “Top Gun” created a massive increase in US Navy and airforce recruitment, the much delayed sequel arrives, having battled it’s biggest foe yet, the global pandemic.
“Maverick” is back, who else can don the iconic bomber jacket than the world’s last remaining true film star and real life action man, Tom Cruise.
With the opening music generating goosebumps for audience members of a certain vintage, Cruise is not only out to save the world again but arguably cinema itself.
Maverick has remained a Captain by deliberately avoiding promotions removing him from an aircraft cockpit, including a plane capable of Mach 10 in the opening scenes.
“Ice Man” (Val Kilmer) has taken the career minded path, now a high ranking Admiral pulling strings to keep Maverick out of trouble and in a cockpit.
When a preposterously risky mission is ordered, Maverick is directed to teach, not fly as part of the final team. The mission to bomb a uranium enrichment plant within a seemingly “Bond” style volcano, requires precision low level flying within narrow canyons, avoiding multiple SAM sites and enemy fighters.
To add additional drama, “Rooster” (Miles Teller) the son of Maverick’s previous famously deceased wingman “Goose”, is one of the hot shots in training. He joins an assortment of characters, bursting with testosterone, leavened by the addition of a lone female fighter pilot, who seems eminently more sensible than her male counterparts.
Much has been made of the veracity of the flying sequences which are quite breathtaking, all of the actors completing extensive training before flying in real F-18’s. Not piloting themselves of course but acting whilst pulling serious G’s remains a considerable achievement.
Cruise is of course in his element, happiest when flying, falling out of planes, driving motorbikes or cars at insane speeds, clinging to aircraft or buildings on the wrong side of the fuselage or window.
Bearing in mind the world has moved on since 1986 and with the current Ukraine operation still underway in real life, any film will be looked at through a different lens. However, the writers have wisely dialled back the US flag waving with the “rogue nation enemy” suitably anonymous.
The action sequences are genuinely stunning, Cruise does what he does best, whilst no doubt being involved in every aspect of the film making process.
The film finds time for a poignant scene with Kilmer, who has been unwell in real life, creating a stand out scene handled with great sensitivity. The obligatory romance within the film is maturely sketched out with Jennifer Connelly providing real chemistry.
A more mature film than before, with Maverick experiencing regrets on paths not taken and secrets withheld. Cruise manages to nail these scenes as well as the action sequences and even sneaks in a shirtless beach American football game. A nod to the sun kissed volleyball sequence in the first film.
Whether on “Team Cruise” or not, this is a genuine crowd pleaser, providing audiences a retread albeit with modern sensibilities and a deeper connection with an ageing central character.
As good a film as it could be, with an ending requiring massive suspension of disbelief and yes Cruise gets to run, so all is well with the world.