Top Gun: Maverick: Directed by Joseph Kosinski. With Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly. After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.
The most shocking part of this film isn’t that Tom Cruise came back for it, nor that it’s doing exceptionally well, but that the story is a heartfelt look into the life of a guy that knows were he belongs and does everything he can do stay in that one specific lane, never changing with the world around him, always being the same guy stuck in his ways. It was surprising to me that Cruise would allow for that kind of self reflection to be so obvious on the screen, just as surprising that he’s continuing his trend of only being paired with women that are of an appropriate age, this time with the impossibly beautiful Jennifer Connelly. The entire first five minutes of the film could have (and might have) been lifted completely from the first Top Gun film, with absolutely no complaints from me at all. The aircraft carriers and deck operations are a perfect way to set the tone of the movie. To that point, this story is just as much Maverick’s story as it is about the young guns that are selected for a nearly impossible mission against an unnamed enemy. Why unnamed? Maybe because as we’ve seen with the Ukrainian conflict, there aren’t many other serious contenders to US air superiority, and if they were to try to shoehorn in North Korea like they did in Red Dawn, I’m sure they’d be laughed out of the theater.
This is a through and through propaganda movie in search of an enemy to play against, but there just isn’t a nation state out there that we’d be realistically fighting in air to air combat with, especially with the briefly mention drone programs that the US has. That’s not to say that it’s unrealistic, unbelievable, or unenjoyable, because it is all those things, and more, but at this point having a team of fighter pilots doing a trench run against massive anti-air systems is more science fiction than military fiction.
It was heartbreakingly nice to see Val Kilmer in the film, if you know what’s going on with him IRL, you knew what was coming before it got there, but knowing and seeing are two different things.