Top Gun: Maverick – REVIEW

There’s a secret ingredient severely missing from most if not all modern action blockbusters that attempt to capture the same undeniable impact as the films from the genre’s heyday. Something that manages to be campy without losing its charms. Something that electrifies audiences through genuine human ingenuity. Something that may only come together when the stars align, the right minds come together, and passion for the craft is put above all else.

Whatever that is, Top Gun: Maverick has it.

Tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell

I’m gonna be real with you, I was not particularly excited for this Top Gun sequel, which I don’t really think you could fault me on. We are stuck in a time where every old pop culture property from decades ago is just clamoring for a sequel or reboot. At least, that’s what Hollywood thinks anyway. More often than not you can see through these films for exactly what they are: money making schemes that require the bare minimum effort to capitalize off your nostalgia. What should also be added is that I do not have any real attachment to the original Top Gun. I definitely saw it at a time when I wasn’t able to fully appreciate what worked for it, and further rewatches have proved to me it’s just a decent movie with a handful of iconic moments and lines. 

So with no nostalgia and a general indifference to the IP…I really, really enjoyed this. It’s rare to have a movie come out in this day and age so instilled with the narrative approach of the 80s that can captivate me in a way I didn’t think possible anymore. This is one of the best action films I’ve seen in a good while, yet its still so earnest to the original film while, in my opinion, besting it at the same time. So what makes this film such a success? A few things.

It’d be foolish to say that this film wouldn’t be of the calibur it was without Tom Cruise. Yes, we all laugh at the Scientology, the Oprah couch jumping, and the one perfectly symmetrical tooth in the center of his mouth, but there’s no denying that Cruise is an actor unlike anything left in Hollywood today. The man has more or less carried the action genre through familiar IPs like Mission Impossible, and more ambitious movies like Edge of Tomorrow, always finding ways to push the envelope and never settling for the easy route. Before filming, Cruise had all of the actors portraying the new breed of fighter pilots endure a rigorous training process to prepare them for the very real G’s they would be experiencing while flying. As executive producer, Cruise has pushed to capture the realism this film needed to blast past the green screen laden landscape of modern action films, which pays off exponentially. You feel every shuttle loop, every harsh bend, every high speed pursuit because it’s actually playing out on camera. It’s incredibly immersive and allows you to feel the intensity of every scene in such an uncut manner. Yet it’s not without it’s grounded, human moments. Cruise’s Maverick is still as hard-headed and ballsy as ever, but his newfound position as a Top Gun instructor now tests his abilities in a completely new way. Much like the actor portraying him, Maverick is one of the last of his kind, as military forces move towards automation over actual pilots, making Maverick the only one who can teach the new blood to succeed in a mission no AI could ever do.

Miles Teller as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw

The newcomers are very much welcomed, from the cocky egotist Hangman to the no-nonsense Phoenix. But it’s Miles Teller’s Rooster, the son of Maverick’s deceased partner Iceman, that gives Maverick a challenge that no amount of barrel rolling can solve. The emotional tie between the two men leads to some fairly compelling conflict that doesn’t come from missles or bombs, but emotions and feelings. The film really is a testament to how far movies and its stars have come. The original Top Gun can be a fun time for sure, but Maverick proves that there’s more to it than just dogfights and undeniably gay undertones. Sure, the action and stunts are still at the forefront, which does lead to some thinly written characters and a vague antagonist that doesn’t always equate to a clear and present danger, but to say there’s nothing of substance flying alongside these elements would be a huge disservice to the creators. Like I said before, the parallels between the film and Tom Cruise himself can’t be ignored. It’s a blast from the past that perfectly modernizes itself to go beyond expectations to deliver a good old fashioned action flick. Tom Cruise is one of the last, unabashed movie stars we have, and this film shows that after all these years, he knows what the people want. Cruise has always been a student of the tape, and now, when movies seemingly needed it most, he’s showing us how it all should be done. If this was the last thing Cruise did, I’d say it’s the perfect culmination of his journey from the first Top Gun to now. Some would say Top Gun made Tom Cruise, but there’s no denying that Tom Cruise makes Top Gun Maverick.

Rating

(out of a possible 5 dog tags)

Cocktail

The term “Smoke in the air” is top gun pilot lingo for an anti-aircraft weapon targeting your plane, and by the climax of Maverick, you’re going to be hearing that a lot. It gave me the idea to combine the smoke from the heat of battle with every ace pilot looking for peace’s favorite spirit, whiskey! What I came up with is a really nice, herbal whiskey cocktail that has a really pleasant roasted rosemary nose, alongside some green chartreuse and sweet vermouth, to give this cocktail a unique and surprisingly approachable flavor. I can only hope Goose is proud of it.

Ingredients

  • 2oz rye whiskey
  • 1/2oz green chartreuse
  • 1/2oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • Splash of water
  • Garnish: 1-2 Rosemary sprigs

Instructions

  1. Before building the drink, light the rosemary sprigs with a lighter or blowtorch inside a rocks glass, then quickly cover to seal the smoke inside the glass. Set aside.
  2. In a mixing glass, add your ingredients and stir with ice.
  3. Strain into prepared glass. Add large ice cube if desired.
  4. Garnish with additional rosemary if desired.

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