Review: Top Gun: Maverick

Score: B+

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer, Jon Hamm

Running Time: 131 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Don't be surprised if you get deja vu watching Top Gun: Maverick. The opening credits, while newly shot, are exactly the same, down to the title card explaining the Fighter Weapons School. Tom Cruise's Maverick dons a leather jacket, drives a motorcycle and regularly pisses off his superiors. There's an impromptu sing-along to Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" and a very sweaty ball game in the sand.

But if this were all the movie had to offer, it wouldn't be worth seeing. What makes it a perfect popcorn movie and an improvement on the original is everything else. This Maverick is no longer the brash young pilot. He's older but not necessarily wiser. He's still filled with regret over the death of his wingman Goose (Anthony Edwards). That hang-up causes him to butt heads with Rooster (Miles Teller), one of his new students and Goose's son. Will these two put aside their differences and work together to complete a dangerous mission? I wonder.

This film is also less rah-rah propaganda compared to its predecessor. These cadets aren't training for bragging rights, but for a suicide mission. Only Maverick seems intent on bringing all the pilots and gunners back home. It's also slightly less bro-y, with two women (Monica Barbaro and Kara Wang) among the recruits. Still, they're easily divided into stereotypes: the showboat (Glen Powell), the nerd (Lewis Pullman), etc. But these roles also fit these actors like gloves. It's hard to complain when everything is this well-executed.

Even the romance, this time between Cruise and Jennifer Connelly, works well. At nine years Cruise's junior, this is about as age-appropriate a coupling as we'll see in an action film. Both have been burned by their on again-off again relationship, but their chemistry is undeniable.

So too is the excitement and energy of Top Gun: Maverick. The film has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.