His voice is a little deeper, there are some creases around his eyes, but Tom Cruise as we remember. At 59, Cruise has become one of the few constants in the ever-changing film business.
He hasn’t played a superhero yet. He turned down the television siren call.
“I make films for the big screen,” he recently told the crowd at the Cannes Film Festival where he presented Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to director Tony Scott’s 1986 aerial combat film.
There was a time Cruise rocked things. He is Magnolia’s slick sex guru. Studio executive from Tropic Thunder. Even director Stanley Kubrick discovers the complexities of Ken Cruise’s puppet charisma in his steamy Eyes Wide Shut.
Over the past decade, Cruise has focused on one type of character: The Best. Whether it’s a space guard, fighter pilot, or secret agent, Cruise plays the optimal human role. The bravest. The most determined. The only drawbacks come from those who get in his way.
Which brings us to Cruise’s return as Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell. As Admiral Bates breathlessly puts it in the new film “Movie Release Information“, “his exploits are legendary.”
Known by his call sign, Maverick is one of the most experienced fighter pilots in the navy. Set 30 years after the original, the film opens with Maverick working as a test pilot. As Cruise propelled the experimental jet past Mach 10, hammering the dashboard with a “Come On!” which is his patent. a sharp-eyed rear admiral (Ed Harris) orders him to land.
He does not.
But before the admiral could flap his wings, there was a new order: report to the Top Gun training school.
If a derring-do cycle with a hint of defiance sounds familiar, buckle up, because Top Gun: Maverick is a heat-seeking missile from movie memories, arming every frame of the original film for maximum impact.
Much like the original, Top Gun: Maverick opens with a deafening, afterburner take-off montage, all accompanied by the Kenny Loggins classic Danger Zone. America’s war machine has never looked better.
But that’s just a warm-up.
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As he prepares to return to Top Gun academy, Cruise takes The Jacket out of his locker. He put on his mirrored glasses and jumped onto his Kawasaki motorcycle. Director Joseph Kosinski filmed Maverick’s return to flight school in all the glory of a knight in shining armor riding his horse.
As Cruise glided past the runway, he had no idea that this was a different kind of mission. No longer a competitor, he is now his teacher — and he will train a new generation of elite fighter pilots to take over a dangerous uranium enrichment facility. The country of this rogue country was never mentioned. In order to maximize profits and avoid potential infringement, the film’s politics have been completely neutered to the point where even Cruise’s famous Japanese and Taiwanese flags were removed from Cruise’s flight jackets to escape China’s wrath.
Top Gun: Maverick is not a smooth film. This is a story where each young pilot comes with their own call sign and baggage, repeated several times for maximum clarity. Glen Powell plays Hangman, a pilot with a carnivorous smile who only cares about himself. Then there’s Rooster, played by the mustachioed Miles Teller, who doesn’t know when to shoot.
Rooster is more than just a pilot going against his instincts, he’s the son of a frustrated Goose—who died when Maverick’s jet went out of control 30 years ago. With Teller’s height and long face, he could easily be the son of actor Anthony Edwards who played his fictional father in the original film.
Militarily, Maverick’s biggest challenge is preparing students for a seemingly impossible mission in three weeks. But what he’s really up against are ghosts of the past, grappling with the death of his friend and the responsibility to put Goose’s son in danger.
It’s hard to criticize how heavy the storytelling is because the film is so bare in its intent. This clever nostalgia bomb changes every element of the original, from the sweaty beach sports set to pumping pop synths in the background. Even Val Kilmer, who lost his voice to throat cancer, was recruited and returned as Iceman, now being promoted and acting as Maverick’s guardian angel. While Kilmer’s role was largely silent, his star presence was enough to make his brief appearance effective.