Aryan Arun Lakshman/ Thiruvananthapuram
Tom Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell flamed out as an instructor after the events of the original film 36 years ago, but now he’s a test pilot, and in the opening sequence becomes the fastest man alive in an experimental fighter jet pulling just over Mach 10 before pushing the limit and flaming out again when the jet explodes. Having burned almost every personal and professional bridge over the years, he’s given one last chance. Come back to Top Gun and train a new crop of pilots for a secret and incredibly dangerous mission.
Among the trainees is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Mav’s former co-pilot Goose, who died tragically in the first film. Rooster is an even more hesitant pilot than his old man, and now it’s up to Maverick to both infuse him and the other pilots with the necessary confidence they’ll need, as well as resuscitating relationships both with Rooster and with old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly).
A mix of old and new characters, a (seemingly) impossible mission, training montages, Danger Zone, winks, and nods towards the sunset aesthetic of Tony Scott. Maverick is determined to make up for lost time and the film delivers a modern version of a potent pop artifact from the 80s. It hits all of the necessary beats in an expected but satisfying way, with a quality ensemble cast for support. But what lingers, even after Lady Gaga’s ‘Hold my Hand’ ballad fades after the end credits, is Tom Cruise’s movie-star performance.
Top Gun: Maverick is arguably one of the best action films of the 21st century. Staggering sequences that annihilate the senses, multiple moments of white-knuckled intensity- the action is breathtakingly beautiful and deranged.
Aside from the absurd action, it’s a movie that is overflowing with heart. An homage to its predecessor but it never feels like it spends too much time dwelling on the past. Cruise is unsurprisingly perfect, but so are all the new faces. Especially the very talented Miles Teller.
Sure, the romance feels dragged in, sometimes stifling the pacing of the movie and causing the second act to slightly lag. But the final act of this movie is so outrageous and flawless that it might not even matter and that to me is poetic cinema.