“Your kind,“ says a grizzled Navy Admiral played by Ed Harris. “is headed for extinction.“
“Maybe so, sir,“ Maverick replies. “but not yet.“
Welcome to 2022’s first and almost certainly best blockbuster movie. Whether you were around in 1986 when Top Gun landed or not, you’ll surely know the film, an ultra-slick ‘high concept’ studded with snappy one-liners, outrageous images of US Naval fighter jets in close maneuvers, and soundtracked by none-more-’80s poodle-haired pop.
Well, Top Gun: Maverick preloads a huge nostalgia kick for those who remember what an impact the original made, before propelling the story and the visuals to stratospheric new heights. This is as massive a piece of pure cinematic entertainment as you’re likely to see, a Mach 10 riposte to the CGI-saturated Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Maverick, played by Tom Cruise—as if you didn’t know that—hasn’t advanced past the rank of Captain, and after a sizzling sequence in which he demonstrates once again where his call sign came from and why, he finds himself demoted and drilling a bunch of new recruits at the ‘Top Gun’ school of elite Navy aviators. A more diverse and marginally less annoying bunch than their forebears, they’re being prepared for a death-or-glory mission to take out a facility that’s enriching uranium in an unspecified rogue state.
There are callbacks galore, involving a tricky relationship with one of the new pilots, Rooster (Miles Teller), and an emotional reunion with Iceman (Val Kilmer), and amusing clashes with authority figures. We’re not saying any more than that, as far as the story goes.
What we will say is that Top Gun: Maverick is a film of unexpected heart and soul, that supplies a huge dose of adrenaline while ruminating on life and the regrets and wisdom that invariably accrues. That’s a tricky balancing act to pull off.
It’s also technically astonishing, the director Joe Kosinski and cinematographer Claudio Miranda capturing the violent, stomach-churning thrill of sustained g-force in a way that genuinely redefines action cinema. Cruise, an accomplished pilot whose own classic P-51 Mustang makes an appearance, designed a training regime for the young actors. This film is for real, and you’ll feel every beat.
More stills from Top Gun: Maverick:
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.