TOP GUN: MAVERICK Review: “Tom Cruise Delivers The Must-See Theatrical Experience You've Been Waiting For!”

We were at the world premiere of Tom Cruise's Top Gun: Maverick at CinemaCon last month and, with the embargo now up, we’re finally allowed to share our thoughts on the blockbuster action sequel!

It’s been thirty-six years since the world saw Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) fly off into the sunset and while, for the longest time, Cruise seemed content leaving the most iconic role on his illustrious resume in the rearview mirror, fate had something else in mind for the king of the skies - and thankfully, it was well worth the wait.

**This review may contain minor spoilers from Top Gun: Maverick**

Top Gun: Maverick wastes little time getting us reacquainted with the Danger Zone as the opening credits - set to Kenny Loggins’ classic song - essentially double as a quick tribute to 1986 classic while setting the stage for a high-flying adventure that, quite frankly, blows its predecessor out of the water. We see Maverick zip to work on a motorcycle while wearing his aviators, flashing his million-dollar smile, and we’re quickly reminded why Maverick turned Cruise into a household name.

Once he arrives at his destination, it’s time to put the past aside and move into the present as he gets into the cockpit of a Darkstar Jet and promptly takes it to Mach 10 before pushing it even further to Mach 11, much to the chagrin of his supervisor (Ed Harris). While a dismissal seems imminent, Maverick is saved at the last second by his guardian angel, Admiral Iceman (Val Kilmer), who sends him back to his old stomping grounds in San Diego. He’s then tasked with training the best TOPGUN graduates in the world, including Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his former co-pilot Goose (Anthony Edwards), for a specialized mission that seems near-to-impossible. It’s from there the real story begins as Maverick’s past and present converge and he must decide to become the man he was always destined to be… or die trying.

Following the superb Only the Brave, director Joe Kosinski is again in top form here, reuniting with Cruise after their underrated, albeit ambitious sci-fi endeavor Oblivion. While Tron: Legacy and Oblivion allowed him to flex his CGI expertise, it wasn’t until the aforementioned Only the Brave, a biographical drama about the Granite Mountain Hotshots, that Kosinski was really allowed to show audiences what he was truly capable of as a filmmaker. With Top Gun: Maverick, he takes it up another notch and firmly establishes himself as one of Hollywood’s best working directors, in both action and drama. He masterfully crafts each aerial sequence, including jaw-dropping dogfighting scenes that will have you begging for more, while simultaneously nailing the emotional dramatic beats between Maverick and Rooster and stealing our hearts with the lovely romance between Maverick and Penny (Jennifer Connelly).

The film’s third act is a masterclass in filmmaking and will have you on the edge of your seat for its entire duration, with multiple cheer-inducing moments reminiscent of Spider-Man: No Way Home and/or Avengers: Endgame. What Kosinski accomplishes with this film is truly remarkable and he should shoot to the top of many studios’ wishlists for future blockbuster projects.

For years, Cruise stressed the biggest hurdle behind making a Top Gun sequel was always trying to crack a story suited for this unique world and specifically for this character. Luckily, with frequent collaborator Christopher McQuarrie on scripting duties, along with Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer, they were able to get the job done effectively and while the story is relatively straightforward, it packs quite an emotional punch in its 131-minute runtime. The trailers have stressed legacy, but this is film is a lot more than meets the eye. It’s a film properly suited for the world we live in now and while it certainly pays homage to the original, the filmmakers are rarely interested in just playing the greatest hits, instead opting to give us a far more rewarding experience. It’s surprisingly emotional, but it’s these quieter moments that really allow you to fall in love with this world and these characters.

Like the eponymous Maverick, Tom Cruise is a superstar with no equal. He’s long been Hollywood’s greatest - and possibly now last - true movie star and Top Gun: Maverick allows him to once again embrace everything that made him an instant icon in 1986. He gives us everything we’ve been waiting for and then ups the ante even further with one of the absolute greatest performances of his storied career. We know going in that he’s going to deliver on the action, having done so time and time again in his Mission: Impossible franchise, but it’s the dramatic beats where he really excels and it’s what allows him to elevate the film with a throwback movie star performance, similar to his films from the ‘90s or early 2000s.

At this stage in time, both Ethan Hunt and Maverick are basically superheroes, but unlike Mission where he’s repeatedly tasked with solving the impossible, Top Gun: Maverick allows Cruise to be vulnerable in a way he hasn’t been in years since Maverick is not invincible, he has regrets about his past, there’s no guarantee of a future film, which means Cruise has to make each and every moment count and he 100% nails it. Love him or hate him, his return as Maverick is one for the ages and with a strong push this fall, could even generate some Oscar buzz come awards season. He’s that good.

Cruise’s work is only enhanced with an exceptional supporting cast, led by Jennifer Connelly and Miles Teller, both of whom worked with Kosinski on Only the Brave. Cruise and Connelly, both legends of the ‘80s, have electric chemistry together, playing former flames rekindling a long-dormant romance, and their storyline works on every level. The surrogate father-son dynamic between Cruise and Teller is the real heart of the film and allows both actors the space to do some of the best work of their respective careers. As Goose’s son, Teller has never been better. The entire young cast, who underwent a rigorous training regime to prep for shooting, is excellent and all get their moments to shine, with Glen Powell, in particular, being the biggest standout as Hangman. Veterans Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, and Ed Harris are all great additions to the massive ensemble cast and it’s a lot of fun watching them interact with Cruise’s unflappable Maverick.

Val Kilmer is also a welcome sight, reprising his role as Iceman for a pivotal moment between him and Cruise’s Maverick. It’s a beautiful scene between the former co-stars and a fitting capstone to Kilmer’s career. Kosinski handles the scene with extreme delicacy, and the living legends Cruise and Kilmer fully understand the gravitas of their reunion and come through with easily the film’s most powerful moment.

The score, which was composed jointly by Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, Hans Zimmer, and Lorne Balfe, is also outstanding and that updated "Top Gun Anthem" should be humming in your head for days to come. 

Top Gun: Maverick is the must-see cinematic experience of the year! Packed with jaw-dropping aerial sequences, thrilling edge-of-your-seat moments, genuine heart, epic romance, and one of the absolute best performances of Tom Cruise's legendary career, this is the theatrical experience you've been waiting for. Don't miss it on the biggest screen imaginable this Memorial Day!

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