Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Peter Craig, Justin Marks, Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
Production: Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Distributor: Paramount Pictures UK
Platform: Theatrical Release (Reviewed)
Release Date: Out Now!
You know when films have an incredible scene, one that sticks with you and gives you goosebumps when you think about it later? Well, Top Gun: Maverick is full of those, sometimes consecutively! Following up the classic 1986 original, this sequel is breathtaking, deploying jaw-dropping practical effects backed up by an earnest and satisfying story.
Since the first film, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) has been spinning his wheels in the U.S. Navy. However, he’s recalled to the elite Top Gun class of pilots – not to fly, but to teach. An extremely dangerous and difficult mission is being planned, and in order to execute and survive it, they’ll need the sort of odds-defying flying that Maverick is known for.
The transition into this role is tumultuous, especially because one of the pilots is “Rooster” (Miles Teller), the son of “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) from the first film. There’s a lot to unpack there, partly but not only due to Goose dying whilst being co-pilot to Maverick in the first film. Whilst the jet-fighter action is the draw here, the well-developed themes of responsibility, friendship, and self-improvement are the emotional anchors that give the flying such high stakes – stakes sold by a brilliant ensemble cast, led by Cruise and his reliable charm.
OK, let’s talk about those action scenes, because wow, this is stunning stuff. The cast actually went through training in both piloting the planes and using the in-cockpit cameras, and the results are spectacular. Seeing characters physically knocked around by G-forces as the planes flip and turn is gripping; it’s just awesome to see the trails of engines, vast landscapes, and close fly-bys. The importance of practical effects is on show, combined with visceral sound design and a nostalgic soundtrack that reverberates through your bones.
The way events escalate is compelling, and there’s just the right balance of airborne and (literally) grounded scenes. The film knows you’re here for the flight scenes, but gives enough time to the character interactions without leaving you waiting for wheels-up. “Iceman” (Val Kilmer) from the first film is now Commander, and despite throat cancer in real life, they appear for a beautifully affecting scene. However, Charlie (Kelly McGillis) does not return; instead, the love interest for Maverick is Penny (Jennifer Connolly), a character mentioned but unseen in the first film. The pair have good chemistry and it adds another human element. In general, there’s much better representation here than in the 1986 original, with the confident “Phoenix” (Monica Barbaro) being the standout, breaking up the testosterone of the Top Gun class.
I struggle to find anything to criticise; Top Gun: Maverick is exceptional. Extra props to the editing department for cutting this together in a way that’s not over-the-top, but also never close to being dull – it’s an evolution of the first film, with plenty of references but a fresh story to tell, ramping up to a brilliant, unpredictable finale. Find the biggest cinema screen you can find, strap in, and enjoy the ride!