Top Gun: Maverick review – a full-throttle, action-packed nostalgia machine

By Marc Miller
Published: May 25, 2022 (Last updated: January 30, 2024)
film Top Gun: Maverick


Only one man can deliver in a world that desperately needs heroes – Tom Cruise! Stand up and cheer, ladies and gentlemen. Top Gun: Maverick is a full-throttle, action-packed nostalgia machine that delivers the supersonic thrills we all have been clamoring for.

This review of the film Top Gun: Maverick does not contain spoilers.

We currently live in a time perceived to have more villains than men or women we want to champion. This was no different in the 80s, an era reflected in movies with big villains, big action, and the intended consequences of creating victors that produced megastars. Well, here we are. In a world that desperately needs heroes, Hollywood returned to the one man who can deliver – Tom Cruise! Stand up and cheer, ladies and gentlemen. Top Gun Maverick is a full-throttle, action-packed nostalgia machine that provides the supersonic thrills we all have been clamoring for. 

Tom Cruise reprises the role of Maverick, who is a Captain in the United States Navy. He should be an admiral by now, which is what Radm. Chest “Hammer” Cain, who is about to discharge him dishonorably, points out. However, Mav now has a reprieve from his friend, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). How? He is currently an Admiral. Kazansky assigns Maverick to train Top Gun graduates, the Navy’s top aviators, on an impossible mission (sound familiar?). He needs to prepare and pick six pilots to help bomb a site producing nuclear weapons. (The country is left to be ambiguous, but according to reports like Screenrant, the speculation is Iran because of the F-14s flying in the film).

One of the pilots he trained was Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his best friend Goose. If you remember, he was one of the great action film supporting characters. He was killed in the original when Maverick continued to push the limits of his training and the plane. It still haunts Maverick, triggered when Rooster plays the same song his dad did at the piano when they sang as a family. (Unfortunately, there will be no Meg Ryan or Anthony Edwards cameo in the film, while the latter would be difficult). Pete has a new love interest in the movie, Peggy (Jennifer Connelly), an old flame he left three years prior. While fighting his demons, Maverick must make believers out of his new boss, Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm), and his star recruits. 

Director Joseph Kosinski (Only the Brave) and a script from a team that includes Ehren Kruger, Kosinski collaborator Eric Warren Singer, and Mission: Impossible Cruise team member Christopher McQuarrie do a great job here. What the film does well is establish respect for the original. They revisit the film and fold in Maverick’s backstory. You have a wonderful mix of action and humor and the film’s top-quality production. Without being ripped from a comic book movie, this old-fashioned blockbuster is a retrofit for a new generation with spectacular action with today’s special effects. Whatever you think of the plot, it seems like far-fetched nonsense when most bombs can now be sent by satellite. Everything feels real, tangible, and raises the stakes to suspenseful new heights.

My big concern with this sequel was if it would just be a carbon copy of the original. It has a few of those scenes, but when it goes back to the well, Kosinski and company camouflage them so they’re hardly noticeable. They also make sure it works well within the story. For instance, when Maverick is thrown out of the bar by his new students, they have no idea he is their instructor. This plays off the original “You Lost that Loving Feeling,” scene with Kelli McGillis. Dogfight football is essentially the famous volleyball tournament but now teaches teamwork. While the romanticizing piano scene with Miles Teller hits home, it evokes the memory of the beloved character. Even Jake “Hangman” Seresin is your quintessential Ice Man character, but Glenn Powell is such a welcome presence it is hardly objectionable. 

The performances are good here. Cruise is having a lot of fun revisiting a role that made him a worldwide megastar whose wattage has lasted for decades. I came to appreciate Teller’s Rooster more and more as time went on. In comparison, Connelly is always a fine addition to any film. (Even though her ringing the bell repeatedly for different reasons, and patrons deciphering it has different meanings, was head-scratching). And with all the bravado, arrogance, and high-stakes drama, the scene with Val Kilmer is moving. The actor has been going through significant health issues for the past couple of years. The scene with Cruise is a moment that will put a lump in your throat. 

Top Gun: Maverick hits all the right notes of a big-time summer action spectacular that has become an American film tradition. It’s an all-encompassing entertainment. One of the best action movies in years that has just the right amount of sentimentality to go along with its Hollywood trappings.

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