“After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.”

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Jim Cast, Jack Epps Jr., Peter Craig, Justin Marks, Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
Staring: Tom cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Ed Harris, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis
Release Date: May 27, 2022

Movies are the absolute best.

Top Gun: Maverick (2022) plays the tune on nostalgia, entertainment and spectacle to the perfect pitch. Tom Cruise and his crazy determination to create outstanding cinematic experiences reaches new heights in this sure-fire blockbuster hit. Top Gun: Maverick is unreal with its fantastic practical effects, surprisingly emotional story and thunderous amount of personality. If you walk out of Top Gun: Maverick without wiping away a few tears while have huge ass grin on your face, then you have no sense of fun.

Top Gun: Maverick starts out with Maverick (Tom Cruise) pushing the limits in the air despite orders not to. Another slap on the wrist is administrated to the captain, but a dishonorable discharge is in his future. Iceman (Val Kilmer) still has faith in his old wing mate and as a man of authority, he sends the rebel back to where everything began. This time, as a teacher.

Maverick must use his 30 years of aviating experience to teach a group of young fliers (who are already deemed the creme of the future crop) for a top-secret mission that some would deem a suicide mission. There are various different types of personality among the younglings, but none as important as Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller). Rooster is the son of Goose, who was Maverick’s dear friend that passed away in the original Top Gun (1986). An undercurrent of the Top Gun: Maverick is Maverick dealing with his past and his relationship with Rooster. Can he learn to trust others to have experiences where if they fail, then the consequences are fatal?

In the end it’s Maverick and a few select cadets, versus the world. There is team bonding on the beach, aerial dog fights, locker room banter and seemingly impossible odds to overcome. Top Gun: Maverick has it all.

The start of Top Gun: Maverick is the equivalent to a nostalgia adrenalin shot. We get Maverick suiting up with his leather jacket and aviators. We get Maverick climbing on an old retro motorcycle racing against the sunrise and torpedoing down an airport runaway. Do we need a reminder that Maverick is a rebel who likes to bend the rules? You betcha we do. Maverick, alongside his partner Hondo (Bashir Salahuddin), go against grounding orders on their test Jet and royally piss off Radm. Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain (Ed Harris).

Oh. And the music. The start to Top Gun: Maverick has all the needle drops you need. You get all that serotonin that you didn’t know you needed but you much appreciated. It really does feel like everyone involved with making this movie knew that you had the feed the audience what they wanted right away; get the easy fun stuff over wish so they can tell a still very engaging story after the fact.

There are numerous aspects of Top Gun: Maverick that can rapture an audience. You have beautiful people. You have crisp dialogue. You have a sound track that can kill. All of those are very worthy areas of praise. However, none of those match up the technological determination to capture Top Gun: Maverick‘s visual and audio spectacle practically. Insane stuff. I am not going to come here and pretend to know everything or how they did it, but I will say that I have watched my fair share of behind the scenes videos that show how this movie came so viscerally alive.

I know it is taboo to say at this point, but you really do need to see Top Gun: Maverick in theaters. The visual are spectacular, but the sounds are even greater. It is the best audio experience in a movie theater I have had since Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017). You will get goosebumps with the sights you and the ripples your body feels. Also, if you don’t want to hear Danger Zone at full blast in movie theater sound, then you and I can’t be friends.

You know who I want to be friends with? Tom Cruise.

This man is superman. Playing Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has to be a wet dream for him. The way Maverick is written has him being invincible, and guess what, we as the audience buy it hook line and sinker. So much of Cruises’ acting in Top Gun: Maverick is just his presence and ability to portray cool. This is not an easy thing to do. This is holding a straight face when being berated. This is smirking when you know you are about to break the rules in the best way. This is the ability to take a punch from someone you know you are better than and then embarrassing them in a playful manner at a later moment in time.

Tom Cruise has all of that in his portrayal of Maverick.

There are moments where Cruise needs to show some emotion or be vulnerable, and let’s admit that those scenes are not the strongest part of the movie. The moments where Maverick has to open up are a bit clunky, but necessary in a movie like Top Gun: Maverick. You need to have some vulnerability in your hero, even if he is essentially a human superman. Also, every Superman needs his Lois Lane.

Jennifer Connelly has still got it. She has not lost a beat. Playing the part of Maverick’s love interest Penny, Connelly brings the heat and the charm with every scene she is in. The name Penny is briefly mentioned in Top Gun when Maverick’s romantic exploits are highlighted, but now she is illuminated in the full spotlight and damn does she deserve it. I can not tell you how hot it was when she got off the bike and left the front door wide open for Maverick. If you have seen the movie, then you know what I mean. My girlfriend looked over at me and said, “Fuck, that was hot.” Connelly has not done a lot of projects in recent years, and this has been her best movie since Blood Diamond (2006). Right now she is working on Snowpiercer on TNT, but I’d love to see her on the silver screen more often.

It just isn’t fair.

Probably the most fun part to play in Top Gun: Maverick was Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, and that honor was bestowed upon Miles Teller. The yet-to-be nominated but still highly respect actor had the most emotional range in his part; Rooster is introduced as a brash non-uniform wearing fun guy at the bar, but then brought back down to earth as a conservative pilot not willing to push the envelope in order to survive. Rooster explodes at Maverick and they have a heart-to-heart, setting the stage for their reconciliation. Teller brings it all to the table. He may be taking the power from his mustache and funneling it to make unbridled charisma.

Also, it can’t be overstated how attractive he is in the movie. The GIF has gone around the world of him on the beach. And then he posts videos of him with The Boys star Chase Crawford on vacation.

The entire movie orbits around Cruise as Maverick, but the secondary parts are still played by very talented individuals. Ed Harris getting a paycheck for a days pay for looking stern as hell Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain is a power move. The performance by Monica Barbaro as Phoenix stands out because she is a girl amongst the boys, but she handles their bullshit better than expected. She has more barb-wired replies the macho bullshit than many of the fellows, so credit to the screenplay for allowing her to shine. Also Val Kilmer returns as Iceman with a face-to-face with Maverick. Kilmer blows Cruise out of the sky in the scene too. Did Cruise let him win this one?

Of all the supporting actors, none steal the show like Jon Hamm. What a fantastic asshole. Hamm plays Adm. Beau ‘Cyclone’ Simpson, the commander in charge of all things when Maverick arrives to teach his pupils. Cyclone does not like Maverick. He makes that abundantly clear. Cyclone is frustrated to no end with Maverick’s unorthodox style, but he has to hold a begrudged respect for the greatest fighter pilot still alive. Hamm hams up the malevolence of authority, and it’s perfect for Maverick to foil.

Adm. Beau ‘Cyclone’ Simpson : Iceman is no longer here to protect you. I have everything I need to have you court-martialed and dishonorably discharged. So what do I do, risk the lives of my pilots and perhaps the success of this mission or risk my career by appointing you team leader?
Maverick : Sir…
Adm. Solomon ‘Warlock’ Bates : I think the Admiral is asking a rhetorical question.

Yea, the music rocks. The song track is incredible. There is a good chance that Lady Gaga gets nominated for her third Oscar for original song for Hold My Hand; his previous were ‘Til It Happens To You’ in The Hunting Ground (2015) and ‘Shallow’ and A Star Is Born (2018). Hans Zimmer lend his talents to Top Gun: Maverick,. Credit is also given to Harold Faltermeyer for lending his composing talents; he worked on the original Top Gun (1987) and earned an Oscar nomination for Beverly Hill Cop II in the same exact year. Lorne Balfe is a fourth composer credited with the music, and Top Gun: Maverick is one of six movies being released this year that he has done; for good measure, he did 11 projects in 2021. Making up for lost COVID time.

I cried four times watching Top Gun: Maverick. I had not cried so much in a theater since A Star Is Born (2018). I never would have thought that a movie featuring navy men and ginormous planes would affect me so, but there I was wiping away the dewy blurriness. I say this without a shade of doubt; I think part of the reason Top Gun: Maverick evokes so much emotion out of its audience is because of the amount of care that went into making it. It isn’t often that the star of the movie introduces the movie after the previews are completed. The amount of time and effort that went into making this movie as practical and real as it is on a different level from anything recently. The last movie I saw that where I heard and read as much on the film’s making is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014).

Top Gun: Maverick is a sight to behold. It is a feeling to admire. Top Gun: Maverick takes the movie theater experience to new heights and leaves you floating on cloud nine. Salut to Tom Cruise and company. Thank you for keeping faith in the movie theater experience.

STANKO RATING: A- (4.5/5 Stars)

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