Top Gun: Maverick (2022) combines exhilarating flight scenes and emotional storytelling in epic fashion

After a lengthy 36 years, a sequel to Top Gun (1986) has finally graced the big screen in the form of Top Gun: Maverick, putting Tom Cruise’s titular character back in the cockpit for a brand new test. The film sees Maverick training the best of Top Gun’s elite graduates in preparation for a death-defying mission.

I’m going to begin by talking about the element of the film that makes it as incredible as it is – the brilliant flight sequences… I couldn’t look away even if I tried. Each and every scene in which we get to see our characters take to the skies is just straight-up phenomenal. This is an adrenaline junkie’s dream – jam-packed with high-octane and fast-paced aerial gunfights and training sequences. Every time an engine lights up and someone gets airborne, it takes the film up to an 11… and beyond. The tension and excitement that is generated whenever a jet roars past the screen put goosebumps on my arms. Everything about these aerial sequences is brilliant, especially the sound design and the cinematography. Shooting these scenes in IMAX greatly enhances the overall scope and immersion, creating beautiful-looking action that is breathtakingly exhilarating. This could have very easily been a film where its only highlight is the flying, however this isn’t an instance of style over substance as there’s a gripping character-centric narrative to go along with it.

As someone who has never seen the original Top Gun, I went into this hoping I wouldn’t be lost (though that would be totally understandable). Thankfully, the writers have managed to condense all of the essential knowledge you need from the original film and present it in a natural, easy-to-understand manner. Through a couple lines of dialogue, strategically-placed photos and emotionally-charged scenes, you’re able to gather all the backstory you need in order to understand what’s going on. Because of this, I felt a strong emotional attachment to characters I’d only just met – including Maverick himself. This is an emotion-packed narrative that’s just as heavily focused on character relationships as it is the high-flying action. It had me gripped from the very beginning, and the complicated relationship between Maverick and Rooster (Miles Teller) garnered my complete attention – contributing to some of the film’s strongest scenes. Seeing the original film and having an established connection to Maverick and co. would be beneficial, but it’s absolutely not necessary in order to understand the gravitas of the situation at hand.

My one minor gripe is that I wasn’t particularly interested in the arc revolving around Maverick and Penny (Jennifer Connelly). They definitely had their good moments, but I felt that their arc slowed the film down a little too much somewhere towards the middle. Thankfully it’s only a minor issue, since it’s very short-lived. Beyond one 15-minute section in the middle of the film, I was locked in to everything going on.

If one thing’s for certain, it’s that these are the roles made for Tom Cruise. He thrives in this fast-paced action environment and carries himself in a way that every one of his scenes is believable. It would be so easy for him to just completely phone it in, but he commits to the character and delivers a leading performance that’s consistently strong from beginning to end. Alongside Cruise, the standout for me is Miles Teller. This has to be one of the man’s best-ever roles alongside his performance in Whiplash (2014). He is absolutely exceptional, and much of the film’s emotional weight is delivered through his character and his interactions with Cruise. The two of them combine to create the film’s best moments, both in terms of action and dialogue. Any scene where they’re going back and forth is just incredible, a testament to both of their acting abilities. The rest of the ensemble cast is good, with Glen Powell especially contributing to some of the more comedic elements with some great back-and-forth banter with the other Top Gun graduates.

In the end, Top Gun: Maverick is the true definition of cinematic entertainment. It features a thrilling and emotion-packed narrative that doesn’t require newcomers to have seen the original Top Gun, something I really appreciated. Performances from Tom Cruise and Miles Teller elevate nearly every scene, with their scorned relationship being a a gripping through-line. On top of all that, the aerial sequences in here really are some of the best and most exhilarating ever put to screen. If you’re looking for action that’s ripe with tension and will have you on the edge of your seat, this will do the trick.

9/10

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