The sequel to Top Gun ups the game – presenting an even more formulaic and glossy ad for the military than the original. Conservatives, turn that frown upside down and bask in brutal warfare used as the punchline for inside jokes. And don’t worry about your precious “good ol’ days,” there’s only one featured woman pilot (strong standout Monica Barbaro) and a few wisecracks about gender so the woke liberals don’t get too ahead of themselves.
In all seriousness though, Maverick is one of the most American films I’ve ever laid my eyes on – if we’re focusing on the part of America which favors formality and the unspoken over difficult conversations. The sound design reflects the tone, with interior scenes so quiet and repressed you wonder if it’s easier to be in the plane. The manipulative score rears its head to remind us that this is a film about heroes, love and forgiveness – as if we need the tip every two seconds. Kudos to editing team Eddie Hamilton and Chris Lebenzon for cutting fast enough to make us forget lesser scenes, and to Claudio Miranda for camerawork and framing that remains quite stunning throughout.
The only other element which saves this otherwise predictable sequel is the fantastic ensemble, who embody their often-lacking characters with admirable depth. Miles Teller shows off piano skills, strong characterization and his ability to draw out emotional range in plastic material. Jennifer Connelly gives strength to her extremely dull “love interest storyline” which feels like the shadow of cinema past haunting today. Glen Powell, Jon Hamm and Charles Parnell all turn in decent work as take-your-pick-army-guy. Of course, the main reason we’ve bought a ticket is to see Tom Cruise, and he doesn’t disappoint. Sure, we watch him give that strange smile as he tries to race a plane taking off with his motorcycle, but this is not young Cruise. He is assured, present and quite vulnerable in the more affecting moments – often involving the presence of Val Kilmer’s Iceman or Teller’s Rooster. He can be relied on to save the film from itself.
If you’re looking for a fun time at the movies where you can cheer, laugh, see amazing flight sequences and enjoy some Lady Gaga compositions, Top Gun is the film for you. If you’re looking for material which will challenge you or stick with you after the credits roll, stay home for this one.
Top Gun: Maverick is now playing in Theaters Everywhere