‘Top Gun: Maverick:’ Exciting aerial action adventure

Tom Cruise as U.S. Navy Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell

By Wendell Gaa

“Top Gun: Maverick” is truly one of the most entertaining and stimulating action dramas which Hollywood has produced in years, and also now one of my personal favorite movies starring the always charismatic and seemingly ageless Tom Cruise.

I have cherished memories of my very first viewing of the original “Top Gun” back in 1986 when it was screened at SM North EDSA in Quezon City. The passion and love for this classic film was evident from the jubilant cheers from the audience which I remember so well every time Cruise was onscreen, whether he was flying high up in the air inside his F-14 fighter jet or just playing beach volleyball. 

Sure, by today’s cinematic standards, the plot in the original is a typical simplistic story about an egomaniac’s journey from high point to low point, and then a comeback to high point again, a narrative so common to many films throughout the 1980s.  Yet it was this simplicity which drew my family and I to “Top Gun,” and apart from the movie’s amazing aerial dogfight choreography which still holds up well today. Throughout the years I have found myself giving this movie repeated viewings because I have just been so drawn to its “Comeback Kid” values of courage and determination against difficult challenges in life. 

After 36 years of waiting for the sequel, I can happily say that it was worth the wait, and although it may sound trite, I will go on the record to state that “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of those few sequels which is a worthy successor to an unmatched classic original.

Cruise returns to the character role which practically launched him to Hollywood blockbuster success, U.S. Navy Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.  Art imitates real life in that the story here takes place 36 years after the events of the first film.  Maverick, who over the years has turned down numerous opportunities for promotion to higher ranks so that he can continue flying, now serves as a test pilot for the Navy.  His persistence to push his capabilities to the limit, however, puts him at deep odds with his superior, Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (Ed Harris), who sends him to return to his duties as a TOPGUN instructor upon the orders of Maverick’s old friend and ex-rival Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) who is now an admiral in the U.S. Pacific Fleet.     

Cruise’s onscreen chemistry with actress Jennifer Connelly (playing Penny Benjamin)  feels genuine.

Maverick is tasked to train a group of young, idealistic and enthusiastic naval aviators who have been assigned an urgent top-secret mission to attack an enemy base.  One of these pilot trainees happens to be Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his long deceased best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw.  Rooster deeply resents Maverick’s role as both an instructor and mentor in his life given the events and circumstances behind his father’s death in the first film, for which he blames Maverick.  Maverick’s attempts to prove to his naval superiors that he still has what it takes to win, along with his relationship with Rooster and the rest of the young fighter pilots forms the crux of the film’s story.  One of the young pilots is Billy “Fritz” Avalone played by Filipino-Canadian actor Manny Jacinto.   

The other notable sub-plot in the film involves Maverick’s budding romantic relationship with a former flame and daughter of a former admiral, Penny Benjamin played by Jennifer Connelly, another Hollywood actress who seems to never age.  Their onscreen chemistry here feels genuine and thankfully doesn’t stir up any unnecessary “love triangle” distractions to the movie’s pacing. 

Without any pun intended, the aerial action choreography here is elevated to impressive new heights, and it’s just mind-boggling to think how Tom Cruise performed his own piloting stunts, just as he has likewise done with other daring stunts in the “Mission Impossible” series. 

I personally don’t feel that this sequel movie outshines its predecessor like many critics may have pointed out, but “Top Gun: Maverick” is still one exciting big screen adventure that I will find myself watching over and over again just like the original film. 

© The FilAm 2022

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