July 16, 2022
“I was trying to be the father he lost, I wish I would have done it better,” says Maverick (Tom Cruise) about his relationship with Rooster (Miles Teller). But there’s no doubt that “Top Gun: Maverick” surpasses Tony Scott’s original.
“Maverick” finds Maverick caught in a conundrum. He’s been kicked on account of cockiness from the Air Force’s experimental-planes division. On special order from Iceman (Val Kilmer), now a high-ranking officer, Maverick has another option: Go back to the elite “Top Gun” program to train a series of recent graduates for a top-secret mission. Among his students is Rooster, the son of Maverick’s best friend –– the predeceased Goose (Anthony Edwards in “Top Gun”) –– who holds Maverick accountable for setting him back in his Air Force career. Maverick must lead the pilots to success, save his relationship with Rooster, potentially foster a romance with Penny (Jennifer Connelly, in an original role), and establish to commanding officer Cyclone (Jon Hamm) that his unorthodox training methods are for the sake of the pilots’ lives.
“Maverick” delivers what should be a more common message in blockbusters: stick to your family, and they’ll stick to you. Director Joseph Kosinski’s visuals, editing, and sound are beyond extraordinary. The thunderous booms of the jets shake the theater, but don’t hurt your ears. The dogfights are sensational.
The soundtrack by Lorne Balfe, Harold Faltermeyer, Hans Zimmer, and Lady Gaga is never overbearing. Kosinski’s work as director makes the film shine on a technical level. But producer Cruise also worked wonders behind the scenes. In making the film, Cruise did not simply memorize lines, but organized the actors’ schedules to have them trained through the same Air Force program which prospective pilots go through in order to obtain official flight credentials. Additionally, Cruise taught the actors how to set up their in-cockpit cameras, so that when they went up, they could operate the equipment themselves.
This attention to detail shows in the apparent ease of interaction throughout the cast in their
group and individual scenes: there was clearly some great bonding or teambuilding to make the
characters come off as so believable in their relationships.
Christopher McQuarrie’s hand (the “Mission Impossible” series, “The Usual Suspects”) on the script (alongside Ehren Kruger and Erin Warren Singer, from a story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks) leaves dialogue cut and quick where it needs to be, but tastefully long during romantic scenes. The pace of “Maverick” never leaves you bored, always keeps you guessing, but makes sure that things move.
The performances from Cruise, Teller, Hamm, Connelly, and the cameo from Kilmer, are all
spectacular, alongside those from the rest of the extensive cast. Rooster’s relationship with GlenPowell’s Hangman feels real and tense. The romance between Cruise and Connelly is quirky
and sweet. It feels like Rooster and Maverick really have history.
If you’re looking for great thrills, a moral pick-me-up, or an example of stellar production ––
“Maverick” does it. 5/5.
Gavin King is a Marblehead High School graduate and a film major at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.