Of course, Tom Cruise stole the show at Cannes.
Amidst all the bewitching gowns and high-profile auteurs on display, it was left to one of the last vestiges of Hollywood showmanship to display exactly why his commitment — as much physical as it is creative — to the theatrical art form is as unwavering as ever.
When asked why he endangers his life constantly on set doing all his own dangerous stunts, Cruise replied without missing a beat: “Would you ask Gene Kelly why he does all his own dancing?”
And, that, in a nutshell, encapsulates everything that is so great about Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel that comes way too late – 36 years after the original — but still reminds us of how Cruise remains capable of single-handedly carrying a flimsy narrative on his handsome, bruised shoulders.
Cruise’s badass character of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell was in his 20s when we first met him decades ago; now, he’s a much older and wiser (okay maybe not) Navy captain, but still retains the arrogant bravado of his younger self and an unflinching need for speed. After establishing this in the most thrilling of opening sequences, he’s quickly banished back to Top Gun — as a result of insubordination — where he has to train an elite bunch of recent graduates to execute a dangerous mission.
That’s not all; earning the respect and eventual obedience of these cocky young pilots might be one thing, but Maverick also has to contend with the presence of Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (a fabulous Miles Teller), the son of his former wingman Goose (Anthony Edwards in the first movie) among the recruits. Maverick is still racked with guilt over Goose’s death, and strikes up a passive-aggressive relationship with his old buddy’s son that threatens to derail his emotions — as well as the mission — more than once.
Top Gun: Maverick
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer
Duration: 131 minutes
Storyline: Pete “Maverick” Mitchell returns to Top Gun to mentor a group of young pilot graduates execute a dangerous mission
Joseph Kosinski takes over as director from Tony Scott, while Cruise’s trusted collaborator Christopher McQuarrie joins Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer on scripting duties, as a high-flying maze of riveting action shots, bromance, banter and even a charming romance (Jennifer Connelly plays a gorgeous bartender smitten by Maverick in an endearing, if slightly thankless role) all come together in one hell of a spectacle.
You genuinely get the feeling of being inside the cockpit with these pilots during the immersive flight sequences that are choreographed to perfection, and with good reason; all the actors took intense training on actual planes during the shoot. The authenticity is phenomenal too — of course some CGI is involved — but the action, unlike in most of the superhero fare we have become accustomed to, feels as real and visceral as anything we have witnessed before; special credit should go to editor Eddie Hamilton.
However, there are logical loopholes abound, the women in the film might as well be caricatures, and the core mission in itself of destroying an anonymous enemy’s nuclear plant flying at impossibly-low altitudes, is a rather hard sell. Some would also miss the generous dollops of homoerotic tension from the original Top Gun, that made fans ship Maverick and Iceman, and inspire fan fiction aplenty.
Yet, the impact of Cruise’s magnetic appeal whenever he flashes a grin or a grimace cannot be understated, and a superb cast — Teller and Connelly along with Jon Hamm, Ed Harris and a scene-stealing Glen Powell — gamely supports him to the hilt.
Leave it to Iceman to give us the most emotional (and many would argue it’s the best) moment of the film, as Val Kilmer reprises his legendary role, in a reunion with Maverick that would certainly leave many reaching for the tissues.
It’s big screen, it’s box-office, and heck, it is blockbuster entertainment. Man, Tom Cruise really is something else.
Top Gun: Maverick is currently running in theatres