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Top Gun: Maverick Review

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the long-awaited sequel Top Gun: Maverick finally flies into theaters. The film was originally intended to be released back in the summer of 2019, before getting pushed back a year. Then 2020 hit and the pandemic happened, putting the film on hold indefinitely. Because of that, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Was the film dumped on the shelf because no one believed in it, or was it so special that the studio was waiting for the right audience? But once all the glowing reviews from Cannes came pouring in hailing the film as the second coming of the blockbuster genre, it was impossible not to raise my expectations. For the second time this year, a film was being heralded to insane degrees. Like Everything Everywhere All At Once, was it possible for Top Gun: Maverick to live up to its enormous hype? Well if Tom Cruise has something to do with it you'd better believe it.

Tom Cruise reprises his role as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, one of the roles that made him a star, in Top Gun: Maverick. We catch up with Pete thirty some odd years since we last saw him in Top Gun, this time as he's recruited to prep the newest top gun pilots for a nearly impossible and incredibly dangerous mission. But Maverick's past catches up with him when he learns that one of his new students, Rooster (Miles Teller), happens to be the son of his former wingman Goose who tragically died while flying with Maverick. The two have a complicated history as Pete still mourns the loss of Goose and is overly protective of Rooster, not wanting him to have the same fate as his father. Meanwhile, Rooster blames Maverick for his father's death, as well as stalling his career as a pilot. But in order for the mission to succeed, Maverick must find a way to reconcile their issues, work together and be able to trust one another in following their pilot instincts.

Top Gun: Maverick is a lesson in both how to make a legacy sequel, as well as how to make an entertaining blockbuster. Maverick improves upon its predecessor in every way, which isn't necessarily an impossible feat since the first one wasn't a phenomenal film by any means--yet it improves that film by giving it greater importance. It builds upon what came before, yet is very much its own film. It doesn't try to remake Top Gun, it just uses some of the characters from it to tell a new story that both honors what came before, but goes above it too. But aside from that, Maverick is a technical feat and a marvel of filmmaking. Tom Cruise's devotion to action filmmaking and insistence on realism keeps the film grounded, but also allow it to soar. You feel the thrill with every maneuver and it's truly a joy to behold. Similar to his performances in the Mission: Impossible films, Tom Cruise gives a performance here that pours his heart and soul into the action film genre itself. His dedication as a performer is truly incredible and really makes all the difference in how invested we as an audience get. We believe in him. We believe he's capable of doing the things his character does because he makes it feel so real. Cruise is joined by a wonderful supporting cast to work with in Teller, as well as Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, and Jennifer Connelly. Similarly, Cruise pushed the rest of the cast in their dedication to the craft as well and the film is all the stronger for it.

While I do have a few nitpicks here and there (ie--the love story needed some proper fleshing out, and some of the top gun pilots could have used a bit more personality), it's hard to hold it against the film. Especially since those issues are a bit par for the course with what came before. Plus Maverick gets so much right and there's truly never a dull moment. Top Gun: Maverick has it all with thrills, humor, and heart. It is the movie of the summer and sets a precedent for entertainment that other blockbusters will have a hard time stacking up against. RATING: 9/10


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