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Top Gun: Maverick (2022) Review

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Note: This review was first published on Tom's blog, Carruthers, Leggetter & Whoever.

It is no stranger to anybody in my personal life, any fan of this blog or any fan of the podcast that, personal life stridently aside, this Tom is an unadulterated and devoted fan of Tom Cruise. But, of course, one can’t filter a whole personal life, because what I love most about Cruise is not his acting. He is undoubtedly one of the great producers in the industry and although some may see it as an arrogance with its undeniably self-appointed nature, he is one of the most fervent and constant forces keeping movies the big screen spectacle that they are so frequently not nowadays. However I must note that Top Gun is not really in my peak Cruise rotation, it’s most likely not even in my top ten Cruise picks (but it would be a sure-fire entry for me in the Cruise hall of fame). Now that may be an arbitrary distinction, however one simply cannot ignore the legacy and majesty of Cruise as Maverick in the world of cinema. 2022’s Joseph Kosinski directed Top Gun: Maverick understands this legacy and maximises it to make arguably a more complete and in many ways better feature that the original. Is it more enjoyable? More rewatchable? Only time will tell, but here and now I can comment on one thing from my own point of view; I think it’s a better final product.

With him still pumping out excellence over in the world of Mission Impossible, perhaps it was time for Cruise to bring some of that fuel and excellence over into another previous work of his. Sure, there is the part of me that longs for a wholly original property to be given the Cruise treatment, but no matter the property, Cruise damn near completely puts his whole life and soul into each project he’s involved with. For better or for worse there have been an awful lot less of the Magnolia’s and even the Rain Man’s in his oeuvre of recent, but if that is the sacrifice he must make to continue with these gargantuan efforts then I can live with that. I’ll always have the 90’s, after all.

Cruise here is on top form. As I will say repeatedly, he is just undeniable. The boundless charisma, action strength, dramatic emotionality and humour still make him perhaps the great movie star of our time, especially in the field of longevity. But this is a legacy picture, it’s another soft-reboot. Where does my removal of a couple of points from a 10/10 come from? There’s your answer. It’s the exact same as the rest of them. Is this a sincere and terrific version of the formula? Certainly. Is it the best? Give it five years of distance from this current glut and we may very well feel that way, I feel the possibility of it brewing in me right now. But it’s all still there. However, again, for me this does better so many things that the first film did well. Kosinski in particular maximises on the technological evolutions and makes the jet scenes in this almost incomparable to the original. You can really tell what’s going on, where for me as perhaps a Top Gun layman, I sometimes struggle. Here the action is clear, crisp and brilliantly shot with a powerful and deeply effective realism.

This powerful and deeply effective realism of course foils much of the drama in the film also. Time after time this film delves deeper into truth and drama than the first film did. Of course in the first film the death of Goose is iconic, powerful and forever shocking, however here there is a pained and honest reflection of life in all its forms. Yes, there are topless guys playing some sport on a beach and, yes, we get people buzzing the tower and so many other fun things and sequences. But we also get touching moments with legacy characters, the most notable of course being that of Val Kilmer, as well as wonderfully effective moments with new characters. Here, the final moments on the air-carrier still carry that same weight as the original, but also have a more genuine and emotional punch in there too. Miles Teller is the other factor in this punch, here as Goose’s son. But again, this is one the better of those legacy performances that we have gotten so many of now. A nice honest balance of his own charisma, energy and emotion, as well as more than a few elements of the past blended in. Glen Powell as 'Hangman' too is not canonically the spawn of 'Ice-man', but he’s certainly the legacy combination of both Cruise and Kilmer’s original characters, and fills his role terrifically; an always enjoyable character when on-screen. A truly nice blend of original and legacy characters makes this overall a brilliant ensemble, with of course one more element from the first film bettered too. Now it’s up for debate in certain circles, but in this camp Cruise and McGillis in the first film were almost painfully without chemistry, making the whole romance feel forced and formulaic. Here, however, with Jennifer Connelly we get a touching, truthful and mature love story for Maverick that serves us, him and the film in so many brilliant ways. Connelly is smart, sexy, touching and is the perfect romantic foil for Cruise. Adding but another brilliant element to an already brilliant film, rounding it all out narrative-wise very nicely.

An 8/10 all rounder. Cruise is an auteur here, there’s no other way to say it anymore. Although the stellar contributions of all involved, in particular the rest of the cast and Kosinski as director, are frequently stellar. One simply cannot remove the fact that Cruise is undeniable as a force of nature keeping action films alive in so many ways. It is the sorry state of affairs that every conversation around this film will be plagued by the ominous phrase “they don’t make ‘em like this anymore”, and they don’t, but maybe they will. This may very well be a beacon. Pound-for-pound this is one of the best action movies of the decade, really only topped by other Cruise ventures, and packs an emotional punch and significant increase in drama and craft than the first one did. Evolutions in the world of film-making have been utilised to make a sterling addition to the Top Gun cannon and one of the great contributions to action films of the past 25 years or so.

P.S. Soundtrack-wise I felt it was a nice balance of classic staples that you’re frankly just not gonna beat, with Loggins and Faltemeyer returning to the well. Great new original tracks, Gaga’s in particular. Nice selections of classic pop tracks to infuse into the soundtrack, Won’t Get Fooled Again being a major standout. And a few modern day clunkers, I mean it wouldn’t make sense anymore, but if you’re gonna run back Danger Zone, just run back Playing With the Boys again. Now, don’t worry, I’m not saying that Playing is as good a track as Danger, but it’s still pretty kick-ass.

R.I.P Tony Scott, one of the true great auteurs, I really would have loved to see what you would have done. However I think you’d be happy with what we got. I am, and many others are too.


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