Top Gun: Maverick
Starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly
● 131 minutes
● Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, St. Vital, Towne
★★★ stars out of five
Top Gun: Maverick absolutely lives up to its predecessor, Tony Scott’s streamlined blockbuster/machine from 1986. That film purveyed the very ’80s notion of war as a sleek spectator event, with keening jet engines, a glamorous hero and not a little homoerotic subtext, notwithstanding Kelly McGillis’s gratuitous love interest.
This 36-years-later followup sees Tom Cruise’s Captain Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick, is still a thorn in the side of the brass as he is dismissed from his gig as a test pilot by a rear admiral (Ed Harris, doing his rote gruff commander shtick) who sees unmanned drones as the way of future warfare.
"Your kind is headed for extinction," Harris says in the script-o-mat allegedly written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie. (If you’ve seen the trailer for Cruise/McQuarrie’s new Mission: Impossible movie, Cruise gets an identical lecture from Henry Czerny — "Your days of fighting for the so-called ‘greater good’ are over" — proving The Usual Suspects’ screenwriter McQuarrie seems to be filling in the blanks of an iron-clad template these days.)
Anyway, Mitchell is sent back to the place where he proved his mettle, the Top Gun flight facility where he is assigned to train the latest crop of the very best fighter pilots in the country. Much to his consternation, these pilots include Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of the late Goose Bradshaw, whose death made Maverick feel stirrings of manly guilt the first time out.
That responsibility is exacerbated when it turns out Maverick must train these pilots for a very specific mission, navigating under the radar of mountainous terrain to take out a budding nuclear facility being built by a hilariously vague hostile foreign entity. (The pilots of enemy aircraft are entirely covered in opaque, Darth Vader-esque flight masks, unlike our uniformly handsome American heroes.)
Maverick is not interested in burying a second generation of Bradshaw. So he resolves to get his pilots out alive, though that is apparently not a top consideration of the mission commander (Jon Hamm).
Along the way, Maverick is also obliged to romance a beautiful barkeep played by Jennifer Connelly. (McGillis’s character from the first movie, unmentioned in the movie, evidently found herself in the ejector seat.)
Though there is a female pilot (Monica Barbaro as "Phoenix"), Connelly is the movie’s designated feminine presence, allowing a window into Maverick’s deeper feelings and not much else. She does get some backup in this department from Val Kilmer’s Iceman character, who is, like Kilmer, is in declining health.)
Tom Cruise is, well, Tom Cruise, doing his haunted hero thing, which he has nailed down pretty well by now. (Has Cruise played a new character since Magnolia? Really?)
Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy; Oblivion) seems especially suited to the gig; he earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. This film is not so much directed as engineered with every image and every line of dialogue fitted for easy insertion into the sensation-starved culture of 2022, and free from the wind resistance of reality.