By Jeremy Housewright
It may have taken nearly two years longer due to COVID, but it was worth the wait as “Top Gun: Maverick” was everything fans of the original could have hoped for and so much more.
Tom Cruise returns to reprise his role as the hot shot pilot Maverick. After 30 years in the Navy, Maverick hasn’t advanced up the ranks and is still a captain. This is mainly due to his constantly taking chances and flying dangerously according to his superior officers. After failing to listen to his higher-ranking officer, played by Ed Harris, Cruise is sent back to the Top Gun program to teach a group of young hot shots to prepare them for a deadly and early impossible mission. Throwing another wrench into the situation is the fact that one of these young pilots, Rooster (played by Miles Teller), is the son of Maverick’s former wingman, Goose.
While it’s been 30 years, Rooster still holds a grudge against Maverick for the death of Goose. Maverick also played a hand in holding up Rooster’s career. That’s the plot – pretty basic but with plenty of meat to last two hours.
Val Kilmer reprises his role of Iceman in a small, yet emotionally poignant role. Given Kilmer’s health issues, it was no surprise he had a small role. Iceman and Maverick became friends over the years and we find out Iceman was frequently going to bat for Maverick over the years, saving his job. The tears may flow during Kilmer’s short but sweet appearance. Kilmer and Cruise come off the screen just like old friends in real life. It’s obvious the pair has wonderful chemistry together.
St. Louis’ own Jon Hamm also stars in the film as Cyclone, Cruise’s superior and nemesis. Hamm plays the role perfectly. Next to the ultra-likable Maverick, Cyclone comes off as stern and dry. You want to dislike Cyclone but you realize he has the best interests for the Top Gun program at heart. Can Maverick win him over or will he end Maverick’s flying career?
The cast of young pilots is nearly perfect. Along with a great supporting turn by Teller, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro and Glen Powell, all turn in fine performances as hot shot young Top Gun pilots. The banter between the group is very reminiscent of the original film.
To my surprise, Jennifer Connelly actually came off well as Penny, a former love interest of Maverick. Normally, any Connelly role includes her crying throughout some part of the film, but she is really great in the role and her and Cruise are quite believable as an item.
While masterful director Tony Scott is no longer with us, Joseph Kosinski takes over directing duties and excels. The flying sequences are out of this world. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a film that can come close to the type of action-packed flying sequences we see in the new film. CGI be damned!
In an era when big-budget Hollywood films seem to be all about superhero films, it was refreshing to see “Top Gun: Maverick,” which comes off as a tribute to Cruise. Make no mistake: Cruise is one of the last true movie stars. He’s went on record as saying this film would never go to streaming over the theater and he was right for sticking to his guns. His next “Mission Impossible” film looks to be the most stunt-filled one yet, proving that even at 60, Cruise isn’t afraid to go into the “Danger Zone.”
Top Gun: Maverick gets an A+.