Feeling the need for cinematic speed? There’s no bigger big screen thrill right now than Top Gun Maverick.
Yes, Tom Cruise is back in the role of Captain Pete Mitchell, call sign Maverick – just “Mav” to his mates – but it feels like much more than that. Watching it, you feel like the movies are back, the 80s are back, your youth is back.
This Proustian rush of nostalgia comes roaring out of the jet engines and the stadium rock score (that the music credits go to Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga and Hans Zimmer tells you a lot), ingrained in the leather of a biker jacket and in motorbike grin plastered over Tom’s as he takes the full G-force of movie superstardom head on, flashing his teeth and reflecting the glare that bounces off them with his Aviator Ray Bans. We, in turn, grin like addicts and nip off to buy another pair of sunglasses to lose on holiday.
They’ve shoehorned in any old plot to get the planes back in the air, with Maverick returning to train a new bunch of elite pilots for an impossible mission (Tom’s good at those) against a faceless enemy who are building a nuclear plant. One of the recruits (Miles Teller) is Goose’s kid, who still holds a grudge and reckons Mav is responsible for the death of his Dad back in the original film.
Can Mav resist throwing the book in the bin? No. There IS a big book of instruction and he actually THROWS it in the bin. What a maverick. Can he ride his motorbike at supersonic speed? Yes. Will he resist showing off and teaching these newbies a dangerous thing or two, will he pull a stunt, will he orchestrate a game of torso-bearing beach football to be played in silhouette as the sun sets and will he say, there’s your team, Sir… with the just the requisite amount of arrogant, authority-baiting pause for effect before the sir? Check check check. That’s a thumbs up for taxi…
Almost every scene is cheesier than an Alpine raclette restaurant and there’s no Kelly McGilis and nobody says anything about that. There is Jennifer Connelly, in a really rubbish role of the woman who owns a bar but can’t get over her broken heart or her hots for Tom. But then they show you what the fighter jets have got to do – same trick as they do in Star Wars dropping a load into the Death Star – and they practise it, and simulate it and then they do it, and you whoop and holler like a frat boy on Coors and it’s all seat-clenchingly well done.
How do we get this museum piece in the air? asks Goose’s kid, flicking old analogue switches. With a lot of photoshop, I’d say. Because Cruise has done something odd and a bit creepy with time here, defying it in both present and past so that we don’t keep thinking, wow, he was so young, or wow, he’s so old now, but that his movie star sheen and charisma and earning power remains somewhere exactly where it’s always been, like he was never young, and will never grow old, conjuring up some kind of anti-Dorian Gray CGI sweetspot.
Is this film about anything? Does it come with any deep political significance? Does it matter? No. I drifted on memory, remembering where I saw it the first time around and how young I was and the mates with whom I saw it and the way we all sang You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling and I realised I haven’t lost it at all. I still love a giant, high-concept summer movie on the big screen and I still love being young. That’s what it’s about, a whopping, mid-life crisis of a blockbuster zooming across the blue sky. Buckle up.