Over thirty years have flown by since Tony Scott’s 80s hit Top Gun took to the skies, and we’ve seen Tom Cruise transition from an exciting rising talent into the ultimate movie star he is today. The long-awaited sequel sees him reprise the leading role of Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, now serving as an instructor in the US Navy.
When an elite squad of highly skilled fighter pilots are tasked with an assignment to bomb a uranium enrichment plant in a rogue state, Maverick is recruited to prepare them for the seemingly impossible mission. To add to the challenge, one of the new graduates of the program is Lt. Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Mitchell’s former wingman Goose who died during the events of the first film.
Upping the ante from its predecessor in terms of the aerial combat, the action sequences in this outing are incredibly put together. Complimented by a rousing Hans Zimmer score, the director Joseph Kosinski excels when his story is in the air, ramping up the suspense with exhilarating scenes that feel as though they have genuine stakes, something that’s becoming all too rare in the current blockbuster climate.
However, it’s on solid ground where the film loses its footing. The script leans so far into the cheesy, bro-ey machismo of the original that it falls flat on its face, with every conversation feeling sorely dated. Full of heavy-handed homage, the nostalgia is nauseating in its attempts to modernise a style that worked only relatively well the first time around.
Continuing to pride himself in doing his own stunts, Tom Cruise is in remarkable physical condition as he approaches sixty. He brings his signature gravitas to this piece but to me his own stardom transcends whatever part he happens to be playing. Because of this, I struggled to connect on an emotional level with his character’s arc. Jennifer Connelly is introduced as Mitchell’s love interest Penny, but their glossy romantic subplot serves no purpose other than distracting from the main plot with second hand embarrassment.
Top Gun: Maverick can be appreciated for its high-intensity, hypersonic action sequences that swoop and soar to new heights but with as many eye rolls as barrel rolls, its cringe was only acceptable in the 80s.