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Review: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a Supersonic Sequel that Flies Circles Around the Original

May 17, 2022Ben MK

Whether he's saving the world from the threat of an alien invasion or saving it from a global terrorist threat, Tom Cruise can always be counted on to deliver crowd-pleasing thrills befitting of his status as one of Hollywood's biggest and most charismatic movie stars. Now, with Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise is strapping in and pushing the throttle into overdrive — re-teaming with Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski and stepping back into one of his earlier and most beloved film roles, as returns to the cockpit for a supersonic sequel that has no trouble leaving its predecessor in its dust.

Set thirty-something years after 1986's Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick sees Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) in the midst of a career crisis. It's been decades since he left the US Navy's elite pilot academy behind to pursue other adrenaline-pumping passions, such as trying to fly ten times the speed of sound in a state-of-the-art stealth fighter jet. But when his high-risk hijinks end up turning a billion-dollar government aircraft into a million pieces of scrap metal, Maverick is forced to deal with the consequences. Luckily, his old friend and former rival, Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky, always has his back. And even though he should be dishonorably discharged, Maverick finds himself headed back to Fightertown USA, where he's been tapped as TOPGUN's newest instructor, and tasked with training the program's best pilots for a dangerous — some might say, impossible — mission.

What follows will have Maverick facing one of the most daunting responsibilities he's ever had to take on — preparing a half-dozen hotshot pilots to carry out a strike against an unsanctioned uranium enrichment plant situated amid treacherous terrain and protected by an arsenal of surface-to-air missiles and fifth-generation fighter jets. But despite the insurmountable odds, it's his unexpected reunions with Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) and an old flame named Penny (Jennifer Connelly) that will have Maverick feeling the most apprehensive. The son of Maverick's late friend and former co-pilot, Goose, Rooster has been harboring a grudge against Maverick for the better part of his life, blaming him for his father's death. However, as the mission countdown dwindles down, will the two men find a way to reconcile with their emotions and make peace with the past? And will Maverick and Penny rekindle their romance while avoiding their previous relationship mistakes?

The answers to these questions may not surprise the majority of viewers. But in Top Gun: Maverick's case, it rarely matters, since the movie does nothing short of an amazing job keeping audiences on the edge of their seats for practically its entirety. Suffice to say, those who found themselves somewhat disappointed with the original's cheesy sentimentality and lack of nail-biting action will no doubt experience the exact opposite reaction to this belated followup, which isn't without its own fair share of drama, but still manages to achieve that perfect balance between heartfelt emotion and explosive action. Factor in the well-placed homages to Top Gun '86 — such as the note-perfect recreation of the first film's opening credits, an updated take on its famous beach volleyball scene, and a moving cameo from Val Kilmer — and you'd be hard pressed to name a more satisfying sequel.

Of course, that's not to say that Top Gun: Maverick is absolutely flawless. On the contrary, Connelly's role feels emblematic of Hollywood's tendency to shoehorn in younger love interests simply to advance the emotional arc of its male lead, while Cruise himself has arguably resorted to playing variations of his own persona on-screen, rather than actual characters. All of these minor cons against the movie are overshadowed by its innumerable positive qualities, however. And although the result may appear to bear all the hallmarks of a slapdash studio fly-by, only the most cynical of moviegoers would dare miss out on this top-flight blockbuster.

Top Gun: Maverick releases May 27th, 2022 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of intense action, and some strong language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 11 min.

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