More than three decades after Tom Cruise took us through the danger zone, he returns to play cocky naval pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with a thrill-seeking sequel that surpasses its 1986 predecessor in all the best ways.
Top Gun is the ultimate feel-good bros being bros movie; there’s dogfighting, karaoke, an infamously homoerotic volleyball montage, and a young Tom Cruise at the beginning of what is soon to be one of the most monumental careers Hollywood has ever seen. When news broke of a follow-up movie, I’m sure the question on a lot of our minds was: is it necessary? Pushing out a sequel nearly forty years later is a risky move; it’s a risk that pays off immensely, however, because Maverick is a clear love letter to the original. This is cinema at its finest; according to Cruise, Maverick is for the fans, and we certainly feel the love from the second those iconic opening notes ease us back into the cockpit alongside Maverick.
Whether your expectations are high or low, nothing can prepare you for the joyride you are about to experience. Any thoughts and presumptions fly straight out the window mere seconds into the film; the power of music is strong, anticipation builds immediately as we watch the jets on the runway to the original theme tune – it’s still highly uplifting to hear by the way; if it doesn’t give you the courage to take on the world every time it plays I don’t know what will. These first few shots quite literally get the hairs on the back of your neck standing. Rarely can a film tug at your heartstrings so easily within a couple of seconds, and we haven’t even gotten to see our leading man back in action yet. Already, without doing very much and yet everything all at once, it’s obvious Maverick will be an exhilarating adventure.
Cruise is awesome. There’s no question about it. The film drops in on Maverick who, still reeling from the loss of best friend Goose (Anthony Edwards), is just as disobedient and smug as he was when we last saw him. This may be Cruise a whole 30 years older, but he is continuing to prove that he won’t be slowing down or slamming the breaks on his fearless behaviour on-screen. Having him back as Maverick holds plenty sentiment towards Cruise’s career; in 1986, he was the spry, fresh out the boat, up and coming talent to have your eye on – just like Maverick. Now, he has evolved into what could be considered the greatest action hero of all time; he is a master of his craft. Cruise appears to genuinely love what he’s doing, and it comes through the screen clear as day. It truly feels as if no time has passed as we watch him do what he does best.
Nostalgia is persistent throughout. There are a handful of throwbacks to the original, most of which relate to Maverick’s friendship with Goose while he tries to mend the bridge with the latter’s son Rooster (Miles Teller). Maverick is cemented by a whole load of heart, so much so that is manages to overshadow the camaraderie of the 1986 classic. Although Maverick establishes its own story, it makes sure to keep a hold of its roots. A scene shared between Cruise and Val Kilmer is particularly bittersweet, as well as the budding partnership of Cruise and Teller – both characters weighed down by a tense history, and the pair convey this extremely well.
Teller could not have been more fitting for his role. He nails the mannerisms of Rooster’s late father to perfection; there are multiple moments that will have you convinced the pair could actually be father and son. In a scene that could have been taken directly from the original, Rooster sits down to hammer out Great Balls of Fire as his pilot pals rally around him. The new band of characters slide into the narrative without any hitches; they complement Cruise as he explores uncharted territory for Maverick, and allow us to reminisce over everything that we love about Top Gun – yes, that includes the volleyball scene.
Maverick is an essential cinematic experience, and maybe the best we’ve had in years. The final act is enough to take your breath away. This is more than the average action flick; Maverick has it all from comedy to an emotional core; you simply cannot contain the joy of reliving the classic that is Top Gun. As far as sequels go, Maverick is a masterclass in thrill-seeking action and nostalgia.