In 1986, Tony Scott’s action drama Top Gun roared into theaters. It took our breath away with naval aviators in aerial combat featuring up-and-coming superstar Tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. 36 years later, it’s time for fans of this cult classic to take the highway to the danger zone to see Top Gun: Maverick, a long-awaited sequel that brings Joseph Kosinski into the director’s chair. This is Kosinski’s second sequel to an ’80s classic after Tron: Legacy, his second time working with Cruise after Oblivion, and his second time working with Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly after Only the Brave.
With this film, Kosinski puts together the best parts of his prior filmography to craft a wondrous, extravagant sequel that tops the original. While the original movie captured the ’80s in a bottle, Top Gun: Maverick captures everything a modern blockbuster should be. Free of superheroes and world-ending CGI spectacle, this is one of the most impressive, show-stopping films of the year — one that pays tribute to the legacy of the original while crafting something new. In addition, this movie is a testament to Cruise’s star power and commitment to entertainment.
Cruise has proven his action hero prowess in franchises like Mission: Impossible and Jack Reacher. With death-defying stunts like a HALO jump and scaling the Burj Khalifa, Cruise’s movie star status has been well-earned. Of course, that’s part of what makes it so lovely to see him return to one of the roles that began his career. Seeing him don the bomber jacket and aviator sunglasses as Maverick is sure to put a grin on the faces of longtime Top Gun fans. He steps back into the shoes of a hotshot pilot who doesn’t play by the rules with excellence, while also maturing the character into a leadership role.
You come to movies like Top Gun: Maverick for the action. Fortunately for us, Cruise fully dedicates himself to the aerial combat sequences. There is no other movie in Hollywood with action as exciting and practical as this one. Cruise put himself and all of his co-stars through intensive training to fly real aircraft and create realistic action sequences designed to take your breath away. The dogfights are so thrilling that it’s no wonder why this movie’s release was delayed by nearly three years. The flight scenes are so visually exciting that they can only be experienced in the biggest theater with the loudest sound available.
But when you buy a ticket to see this movie, you won’t just be getting a phenomenal action film. You will be getting an emotional story about an old-fashioned flyboy returning to his roots to train a new generation of aviators. Seeing Maverick’s role reversal leads to a fun dynamic where he retains his unconventional methods while also stressing there is no room for error. He repeats his line from the original film: “You think up there, you’re dead.” This movie shows the excitement and thrills of aerial combat while showing its dangers and how battles have evolved since the 80s.
This is also a very emotional film. Maverick must train a group of aviators, and one of them is Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late best friend, Goose. Their relationship is the movie’s heart and soul, leading to some very emotional scenes. This is more than just an action movie—at the core of everything is a mature character drama. The events of the original Top Gun serve as Maverick’s spine, and the places that the screenplay takes the characters are tear-jerking. The movie’s team of young characters is also delightful to watch as they train to become better pilots.
Everything culminates in an intense final battle that steps things up from the original. It’s a welcome entry to Cruise’s long list of larger-than-life action movies. This sequel is a marvelous labor of love that doesn’t tread any new, unpredictable ground with its story. Regardless, this movie offers exhilarating action, phenomenal dramatic weight from the stellar performers, and an experience tailor-made for anyone who feels the need—the need for speed.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.
Disclosure: Critic attended a press screening for our Top Gun: Maverick review.