For four decades, Tom Cruise has been able to create a career that just a few before and after him are able to achieve. The actor has become a true icon of the silver screen, and his work ethic and professionalism have transformed him into the ultimate movie star. In today’s day and age, the title of movie star seems to have faded into obscurity as audiences flip into trusting more brands, than actors or directors. Tom Cruise keeps the flame ablaze, even in this climate.
Cruise has done it all; drama, comedy, action, science fiction, and fantasy, you name it. However, it is true that in this later stage of his career he has been inclined into making more blockbusters type of films, leaving behind the time when he was doing serious drama pieces. Cruise has realized what he does well, and he’s ready to give the audience more of it. Top Gun: Maverick is just one more proof that he still got it.
Top Gun: Maverick is a film directed by Joseph Kosinski, and stars Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, and Val Kilmer. The movie tells the story of Captain Pete Mitchell, a.k.a. Maverick, who returns to the Top Gun school as an instructor after getting one of his superiors angry. Maverick takes the role of the instructor as a punishment rather well, but things get complicated when one of his students is Bradley Bradshaw, Goose’s son from the first movie. As well, as being faced with a mission that seems impossible.
The original Top Gun was one of Cruise’s first real successes at the box office. The movie made him a start on his own, and the actors have never let the pace go down since then. Coming 36 years after the first movie, Top Gun: Maverick feels a bit late for a sequel, but thanks to that lateness it manages to capture some themes that have been missing from Cruise’s other films, and that has the time passes they need to be taken into consideration.
This might be the first movie where Cruise let his age be seen as something that is actually affecting his character on screen. There is a lot of talk about Maverick being a relic from the past. As airplanes will soon be piloted remotely or through A.I. Cruise is also an old man when in comparison to his students, and this is all true of Cruise himself in real life. However, as Maverick proves his worth in the movie, so does Cruise outside of it. He might be old, but none does the movie star thing as he does.
One of the reasons Cruise has been able to maintain this momentum for so long is that as the producer of his own films, Cruise has been able to surround himself with incredibly talented people. For example, his greatest collaborator right now is Christopher McQuarrie. The filmmaker jumped to fame after having penned the fantastic “The Usual Suspects” script, for which he won an Academy Award. Later the writer and director would collaborate with Cruise on Valkyrie and the rest is history, as their collaboration now is over a decade and a half.
McQuarrie has a screenwriting credit in Top Gun: Maverick which is directed by Joseph Kosinski, who began his directorial career with the Tron: Legacy, showing an eye for impressive visuals, and who also has now become part of the business of making Tom Cruise’s films. Kosinski’s visual flair is all over Top Gun: Maverick and in combination with McQuarrie’s effective storytelling, Top Gun: Maverick ends up being a triumph on almost every level.
Kosinski’s visual style adapts very well to what Top Gun: Maverick should be. The film ends up radiating a huge amount of 80s energy from a type when movies could be simple and just fun without having to dwell on politics, social commentary, or other more controversial topics from real life. Visually, the movie feels like a renovation of that style. All the energy is there, but now in crispy high definition.
The magic of visual effects and Cruise’s will to sell the stunts in each of his movies as something that was really shot in front of a camera make each flight feel intense and risky at every second. This feeling of “reality” has become a selling point of Cruise’s brand of films, and Top Gun: Maverick is no exception. The movie delivers some impressive dogfight sequences.
The third act of Top Gun: Maverick is fabulous, as it serves as a big payoff to the main two storylines of the film, and Kosinski and his team go gull throttle when it comes to delivering some great pieces of action. In fact, the first and third acts of Top Gun: Maverick are almost perfect, as they set up promises and then deliver on them in a very satisfying manner.
The second act, however, feels a bit thin, especially when it comes to the characters’ interactions. The movie is intended for Maverick establishing relationships with two other members of the cast, but those relationships need to share time with Maverick’s own problem with authority, and then the other many characters that filled the movie. This doesn’t really leave a lot of space for those relationships to feel worthy, and they end up feeling somewhat shallow in comparison to everything else.
Maybe if the last mission had come a lot sooner and the last bit of the sequence could have been extended. One of those relationships could have had the necessary time to develop, but as it is, the conclusions to both storylines don’t feel as earned as they could have been. Nevertheless, Maverick’s own arc through the movie is quite solid and gives the character, and the whole franchise for that matter, the respect it deserves.
Top Gun: Maverick is far from perfect, but it almost achieves it. It is without a doubt one of the best sequels ever, as it feels like a logical progression for the story of Maverick as a character, especially coming so many years after the original movie. The film is an experience that should make the visit to the theater worth it. Will Maverick fly again? If the franchise can deliver another one like this, then keep it coming.