Paramount released Top Gun in 1986. I was heading into junior high school, and my parents didn’t have the means to pay for a theater pass, so I didn’t get to see it until it hit rental stores. Even then, we didn’t have a TV, so I had to watch it at my best friend’s house.
The ’80s was a glorious time for movies; the Goonies, Ghostbusters, The Blues Brothers, Conan the Barbarian, Tron, Beverly Hills Cop, Aliens, 48hrs, and Top Gun. Movies made in the ’80s seemed less concerned with winning a prestigious Hollywood award and more focused on making entertaining content. When someone tells me that movies are not diverse, I say, watch a few dozen ’80s movies and come back to me.
Top Gun: Maverick is everything Hollywood needs to return to and embrace once again. Leaving political agendas and narratives at the door and focusing on making pure entertainment that leaves people smiling as they walk out of the theater. That’s precisely how Top Gun: Maverick left my son and me as we left the theater last night. Let’s take a look at Top Gun: Maverick.
Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick Cast
- Tom Cruise: Capt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell
- Val Kilmer: Adm. Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky
- Miles Teller: Lt. Bradley’ Rooster’ Bradshaw
- Jennifer Connelly: Penny Benjamin
- Bashir Salahuddin: Wo-1. Bernie ‘Hondo’ Coleman
- Jon Hamm: Adm. Beau ‘Cyclone’ Simpson
- Charles Parnell: Adm. Solomon ‘Warlock’ Bates
- Monica Barbaro: Lt. Natasha’ Phoenix’ Trace
- Lewis Pullman: Lt. Robert ‘Bob’ Floyd
- Jay Ellis: Lt. Reuben’ Payback’ Fitch
- Danny Ramirez: Lt. Mickey ‘Fanboy’ Garcia
- Glen Powell: Lt. Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin
- Jack Schumacher: Lt. Neil ‘Omaha’ Vikander
- Manny Jacinto: Lt. Billy ‘Fritz’ Avalone
- Kara Wang: Lt. Callie ‘Halo’ Bassett
- Greg Tarzan Davis: Lt. Javy ‘Coyote’ Machado
- Jake Picking: Lt. Brigham ‘Harvard’ Lennox
- Raymond Lee: Lt. Logan ‘Yale’ Lee
- Jean Louisa Kelly: Sarah Kazansky
- Lyliana Wray: Amelia
- Ed Harris: Radm. Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain
After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.
When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.”
Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.
Tom Cruise has been making movies for a very long time, and while I’m not a fan of his real-world personality, I appreciate his acting and movie-making ability. From the first Top Gun to A Few Good Men, American Made, Jerry Maguire, Mission Impossible, Rain Man, Tropic Thunder, and countless others. He’s also had his fair share of stinkers; let’s not kid ourselves.
Cruise reprises the role of Capt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, and it’s almost as if he never left. Cruise looked very comfortable in the role and brought maturity into the character. While Maverick still owns the cocky, self-absorbed, egotistical attitude we remember. Cruise manages to slip in some retrospective and discerning values into the character.
The role of the cocky and overconfident jackass passed over to Glen Powell, who plays Lt. Jake ‘Hangman’ Seresin. Powell did a fantastic job of portraying Hangman, giving us all of the smug pretty boy grease we all love to hate.
Jennifer Connelly plays Maverick’s love interest, Penny Benjamin. Connelly was fantastic in this role, giving Penny a robust independent character with a driving sense of femininity, love, and motherhood. I preferred Penny over Charlie from the first Top Gun.
Miles Teller was cast as Lt. Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw, brilliant! Rooster is the son of Maverick’s friend Goose. Maverick feels a deep sense of responsibility for Rooster, and that is a driving plot point in this movie. All it took to convince me Rooster was the son of Goose was slapping a mustache on Teller. Teller’s resemblance to Anthony Ewards enhanced Teller’s performance. Of all the casting choices, this one was the best Paramount could have made.
There are many more great performances and casting choices in Top Gun: Maverick, too many to talk about. I enjoyed Bashir Salahuddin’s performance as Bernie ‘Hondo’ Coleman, Monica Barbaro as Lt. Natasha ‘Phoenix’ Trace, and Jon Hamm as Adm. Beau ‘Cyclone’ Simpson.
It was incredibly moving to watch Val Kilmer return as Adm. Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. While Kilmer was limited due to his condition, his mere presence on screen with Cruise was epic. How they wrote the scene for Maverick and Iceman was the only and best way to do it. Moreover, the scene didn’t feel like it was there to be there; it mattered to the story and was perfect.
Overall, the casting was outstanding. All the actors performed well together, making us feel the conflict, struggles, and victory of creating a team.
Top Gun: Maverick is a straightforward action drama that does not lean on a real-world narrative or agenda, and that’s rare these days. Like The Terminal List, it only lives to provide pure entertainment, making you feel good about your world. There is no message, no political agenda, and no cultural pontification in this movie. It is simple and easy to digest.
As for the plot and screenplay, yes, it’s probably a cookie cutter; been there, done that script, but sometimes that’s exactly what people want.
The movie opens with some familiar surroundings that will bring memories of the first Top Gun to mind. The filmmakers did an excellent job of providing moments and scenes that harken back but never dive into silly extended flashbacks that take up screentime from the new story.
The movie’s pacing was excellent, and the ebb and flow of the script was spaced well, so you’re never down in a valley too long before you’re hit with intense action. I appreciated that Top Gun: Maverick did away with the long romantic scenes found in the first Top Gun. I think having one of the central plot points, the relationship between Rooster and Maverick, helped take that relationship arc off of Penny.
The number of practical effects in this movie is off the chain! The film heavily relied on practical effects instead of CGI, which makes a massive difference. Knowing that a large chunk of the flying scenes were done in real fighter planes gives the viewer a fantastic sense of being there.
The actors underwent a three-month program to prepare for their fighter scenes, and the director spent months figuring out where and how to mount cameras on the aircraft. I’m not opposed to CGI when it is appropriate, but there is nothing like practical, real-world effects in my book.
One final thought that I’m sure has been talked about. Yes, the mission in this movie seemed to mirror the one out of Star Wars Episode IV, but I could forgive that parallel because we needed a movie like this now.
Overall, the production that went into Top Gun: Maverick should be held on the same platform as the acting and writing. It was simply amazing.
Top Gun: Maverick is still in some theaters. I generally don’t waste my money on watching movies in theaters anymore. Very little Hollywood has put out in the past few years is worth investing that sort of money into.
What Hollywood has forgotten is this. Moviegoers are investors, and your investors want to be entertained. Moviegoers don’t want ideologies and political agendas packaged inside of their products. We want to walk out of a theater with a smile, a story to tell on the ride home, and a feeling that we received an entertainment experience worth the high ticket price and concessions.
Top Gun: Maverick sent me home smiling, talking to my son about our favorite moments, and feeling like my investment was worth it. See this movie in a theater while you still can.