The summer belonged to “Top Gun: Maverick.” It brought folks back to theaters, it solidified Tom Cruise’s reputation as a movie star and it has the staying power to make it into the Oscar hunt.
Releasing this week on DVD, it also could be a good way to gather the family for a Thanksgiving movie watch.
In addition to Cruise, the film boasts big stunts, amazing cinematography, a speaker-thumping soundtrack and an ending that’s foreshadowed the minute the film begins.
Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is charged with training a new class of pilots to go on a dangerous mission. We know as much because the film’s writers make sure to emphasize all the elements we need to have full buy-in. The plotting, in fact, is essential: Teach the audience what’s important, then check the boxes. For good measure, recall the past.
People are also reading…
That includes Maverick’s good pal Goose (played by Anthony Edwards) who died in the first film. Now, his son, Rooster (Miles Teller), is among the fliers and, yes, he’s one who holds a grudge. Maverick’s old friend Iceman (Val Kilmer) is the one who wants the veteran leading the charge. Never mind that poor Pete has never gotten above the rank of captain. He has the need for…well, you get it…and the right stuff to teach. As an extra bonus, there’s an instant catchphrase: “Don’t think, just do.”
Because someone has to emerge as villain (it’s never quite clear who the folks with all the weapons really are), Jon Hamm checks in as the Dean Jagger-esque admiral who takes a dim view of everything Maverick does. We know because he’s often giving looks that suggest dismay and exasperation.
To give the chip-on-his-shoulder Rooster his own rival, there’s Hangman (Glen Powell), another hot shot with the necessary skills. Throw in a handful of others (my favorite is Bob – just Bob) and director Joseph Kosinski has the playing pieces for a fine game of chess. Jennifer Connelly is here, too, as a romantic interest for Maverick but she’s often viewed as a conduit for the quieter moments.
The heat comes when the pilots are in the air, executing those duck-and-cover maneuvers that really resonate on screen. Cruise gets his moments on a motorcycle, too, and tries his hand at a sailboat but, as Maverick says, “I don’t sail boats. I land on them.”
For fans of the first film, there are plenty of photographs (Maverick collects stuff better than a high school graduate’s mom) and callbacks. There’s also a nice scene between Kilmer and Cruise that puts the career in perspective.
Cruise, though, doesn’t just reflect. He plays beach football with his students, climbs out of…