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Top Gun: Maverick Review: Tom Cruise’s thrill-seeking film is a visual spectacle that ‘takes your breath away’

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Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell

Top Gun: Maverick Director: Joseph Kosinski

Top Gun: Maverick Stars: 4/5

Tom Cruise still “feels the need, the need for speed,” and thankfully, it’s the audience that bears the fruits of his love for movies. Top Gun’s cult status demanded a sequel, with a few naysayers, and knowing Tom Cruise and his obsessive attention to detail, Top Gun: Maverick comes only after a solid 36 years has passed with technology evolved in accordance to the Hollywood superstar, while the actor himself refuses to age. But does the highly-awaited sequel deliver on its promise to come out of the “danger zone” stronger than the original? Let’s find out!

In Top Gun: Maverick, we’re hit with an instant dose of nostalgia with Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) defying gravity by dodging ranks so as not to be grounded, something which the higher-ups are none too pleased about. Between pushing for the unattainable Mach 10 by toying with multi-million dollar Naval machinery as his personal toys and blatantly disrespecting commands, Mitchell finds a constant ally in once rival-turned-wingman Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), now U.S. Pacific Fleet’s commander, who enlists a reluctant Maverick to surprisingly not fly but teach a ruckus group of Top Gun pilots like his younger, and honestly older self, for a special “almost death” mission – take out a uranium enrichment plant from the enemy territory that gives “steep” a bad name.

Amongst the mad bunch – which also includes Lieutenant Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell), a curious mix of Maverick and Iceman’s testosterone levels and wit combined, and even low and behold, a woman mission pilot trainee named Lieutenant Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (Monica Barbaro), who is miraculously highlighted yet undermined in a man’s, man’s, man’s world – is Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), Maverick’s late RIO and best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, who tragically dies in the original, breaking many a hearts back then and even now plays a major storytelling motif throughout Top Gun: Maverick. While instilled with hatred, and an underlying blame game over his dad’s ill fate, on Maverick for taking him off the Naval Academy list and taking away a precious few years of his professional career, Rooster constantly butts heads with Maverick.

Eventually, Maverick gets around to training his students – especially trying to make Rooster more in sync with his hidden rebellious side – although on his own overambitious terms and even upping them during the training dogfights with his infectious swagger and devilish smirk. The trainees may work hard but their trainer will always be steps ahead! No questions asked! As expected, flying has always been Maverick’s first love and he’s more than willing to get reacquainted with the deathly high-“G” manoeuvres when push comes to shove. However, this time around, he also learns a lesson or two on how age is catching up to him, unlike the actor playing him.

From the get-go, Tom Cruise has been adamant about how the aerial sequences in Top Gun: Maverick can’t rely on heavy CGI and have to be practical like the original. The end result is nothing short of a visual extravaganza! Giving the audience, particularly the IMAX crowd, an “on the pilot’s seat” experience through and through, you’re gifted with thrill-seeking flight sequences under narrow circumstances. While Top Gun in 1986 was something that made the theatre-going escapade “never before seen,” Top Gun: Maverick goes above and beyond in balancing the 80s cinema throwback with high stakes “modern technology” action, that never fails on the pleasing game. Whether it’s the high-speed F/A-18s or the classic F-14s, there are many breathless moments, where you’re probably mirroring the characters’ dramatically realistic G-Force struck reactions.

Claudio Miranda’s edge of your seat cinematography is in complex tandem with Eddie Hamilton’s breakneck editing. This is seen specifically in the training sequences where the flying scenes interlace with the high tension encounters between Maverick and Rooster. What’s attractive about Top Gun: Maverick is how the emotional quotient is just as high as the obvious testosterone-filled Great Balls of Fire singalongs, uniformed fist-fights and the stunning aerial mashup. This is specifically seen with the inclusion of Val Kilmer as Iceman, who’s only present in one sequence, but the heart-to-heart shared between him and Maverick will leave the coldest of hearts, teary-eyed.

When it comes to the performances, Top Gun: Maverick doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it’s wholeheartedly “The Tom Cruise Show.” And why should they even? The superstar has time and again adapted seamlessly to modern filmmaking, always thrashing cinematic boundaries and attaining the “impossible,” all the pun intended. Top Gun: Maverick is no exception! Moreover, Tom struts into Maverick’s bragging personality with finesse, as easily as he dons the beloved leather jacket and rides the referred Kawasaki bike. It also really helps that Tom Cruise is a fine actor, amidst being the box office bankable star he’s been for decades and continues to thrive on.

Miles Teller masterfully picks the physical and mental quirks of Goose, albeit with his own sassy twist, with his earnest performance as Rooster, sure to make him an instant fan favourite. This role is just another feather to Miles’ underrated cap because we need to see him in more movies already. Jennifer Connelly is introduced as Maverick’s love interest, Penny, who owns the local bar The Hard Deck, having sailor credits in tow. While nothing can top Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis’ passionate chemistry in Top Gun, Jennifer’s instant likeability on-screen and breezy chemistry with Tom is easy on the eyes. Even Jon Hamm as Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson, the thorn in Maverick’s side, does his part just right. However, all three characters are mere narrative drive points for Maverick’s journey, as the test pilot juggles between letting go and heading for one more “odd stakes” battle. Because it’s “who he is.” Amidst this, Glen Powell manages to rise above the Tom Cruise syndrome and gives a crackling performance as Hangman, but Monica Barbaro is unfortunately lost in translation. She isn’t given the same character authority that Kelly’s Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood was bestowed with as a Top Gun instructor.

ALSO READ: Top Gun: Maverick EXCLUSIVE: Miles Teller recounts how he bonded with Tom Cruise amid ‘tough’ flight training

Joseph Kosinski, who has earlier collaborated with Tom Cruise on Oblivion, manages to add his own sci-fi twisted direction into the aerial thrills and the frills, while Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie’s tight screenplay walks the thin line between old loyal fans, who can quote Top Gun like the back of their hands, and those who haven’t ever watched Top Gun, nevertheless, promising a unanimous exhilarating experience with Top Gun: Maverick. You’re going to get exactly what you expect from the action-drama film, which is popcorn entertainment! Even Top Gun’s iconic soundtrack is given a worthy homage, while Lorne Balfe, Harold Faltermeyer and Hans Zimmer add their own musical magic to the mix. Let’s not forget Lady Gaga’s soul-stirring Hold My Hand that is initially teased between sequences before it quite literally flies off into the sunset in the concluding moments of Top Gun: Maverick.

In finality, Top Gun: Maverick is such an aesthetically euphoric watch, that Tom Cruise manages to yet again “take your breath away!”

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