Why would anyone in today’s desirable moviegoing demo want to see a sequel to a 1986 film—even one as popular as Top Gun? The question becomes academic, if not downright moot, after watching this superior film. It’s hard to picture another entry in the summer movie sweepstakes that can equal or exceed this one for pure, adrenalin-fueled entertainment.
Tom Cruise proves he’s still got what it takes to command the screen, even when he’s playing a character who might have been cast with someone decades younger than himself. He retains the looks and swagger of a youthful leading man without actually stepping into (or out of) a time machine. His character’s backstory explains his presence in the elite U.S. Navy flight program. Since his reputation precedes him, his love story with age-appropriate Jennifer Connelly and competition with the son of his former pal (Miles Teller) all make sense.
With a screenplay credited to Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and recent Cruise collaborator Christopher MacQuarrie, the saga of how a legendary hotshot returns to the scene of his former glory days doesn’t strain credulity. Even a brief reunion with his former cohort Val Kilmer is set up and played with just the right amount of sentimentality. If the film relies on tried-and-true Hollywood movie tropes, it makes excellent use of them.
This is not a special effects movie, per se, but the simulated—and actual—flights in F18 jets offer compelling and nail-biting excitement, all the more so when you learn that the cast members actually trained to do their own flying in these supersonic jets.
It isn’t necessary to have seen, or revisited, the original 1986 pop hit to understand the relationships in this screenplay. Cruise’s cocky persona speaks for itself, especially in his scenes with his humorless superior officer, well played by Jon Hamm. The reasons for Teller’s resentment of Cruise are also clearly spelled out.
Under Joseph Kosinski’s direction, Top Gun: Maverick never feels like a fill-in-the-blanks formula product. It has a freshness and vitality that recalls the best Hollywood sequels and remakes, not the worst. I had a great time watching Top Gun: Maverick and recommend seeing it as I did, on a giant IMAX screen.