Now available to purchase digitally from outlets like Amazon Prime Video, Top Gun: Maverick is the movie of the year of our lord 2022, and feel free to interpret that as you may, because it’ll be true no matter what. Engineered to be massive by one Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, the film, painstakingly shot with IMAX cameras, sat on the shelf for two years, waiting out the COVID pandemic for a theatrical release, which is nothing really, considering the original smash-hit Top Gun debuted 36 years ago. Quite notoriously, Cruise made sure all streaming platforms took their Maverick acquisition offers for long walks off short piers, and the gambit paid off with an international box office take of nearly a billion-and-a-half dollars. That and Cruise’s insistence on putting himself and his cast members in the cockpits of real F-18s performing wild maneuvers earned him the informal title of Savior of Cinema (and almost making us forget about all that creepy Scientology stuff). So the movie was made explicitly to satisfy your need (your need!) for speed in the theater, but will its big-nostalgia thrills translate to viewing at home?
The Gist: MACH 9: It’s circled in red on his calendar. Whose calendar? Mav’s cal, that’s who. You know, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the guy whose picture is next to “hotshot” in the dictionary. When he’s not turnin’ a wrench on his vintage prop plane, he’s a right-stuff test pilot for the U.S. Navy, where he never surpassed the rank of captain despite several decades of service. He’s a pilot. Period. Middle management ain’t his bag. He gets word that his program is about to be axed by a grimacing honcho (Ed Harris) barking this and that about Pentagon budgets, so Mav pushes the envelope: “They want Mach 10, let’s give ’em Mach 10.” Does he give ’em Mach 10? Reader, it’s not a spoiler to say he does. Let’s be real. If he doesn’t hit Mach 10 and inspire the furrowed-brow scowlers to say things like “You got some balls, stick jockey” and chew out rulebreakers as they stand at attention before them in austere offices with sunlight filtering in through the blinds, then this movie ain’t doing its job.
And so Mav gets lectured. Guys like him are gonna be obsolete real soon. Just like movies don’t need stuntmen and practical effects anymore because CGI is the wave of the future, military drones are the future. But right now, they still need guys like Mav to do this one mission here, and therefore his ass is saved by what we initially believe is someone named Deus Ex Machina, but we soon learn is Iceman himself, you know, the other hotshot (Val Kilmer), who’s now an admiral and has the power to keep a spirited individual like Mav from getting a safer, probably better-paying civilian job. That lungs-of-steel, guts-of-iron mission requires Mav to return to Top Gun, the school for elite fighter pilots, and teach the young whippersnapper cockpitters how to be total f—ing badasses, while Vice Admiral Cyclone Simpson (Jon Hamm) never stops pursing his lips disapprovingly as he tries to keep the lowercase-m maverick from breaking all the rules even though the mission pretty much demands that all the rules be broken.
I’d say that mission is impossible, but that would be easy, too easy. They have three weeks to train for a two-and-a-half-minute endeavor in which four planes have to go LEFFFFFFTTTTTT real hard and then RIGGGGHHTTTTTTT a little bit harder and then left and right and left and right but faster, and then UPPPPPPPP and then upside-down and then DOWWWNNNNNNNN and then launch missiles at a miniscule target (it’s an illicit uranium-enrichment site in a very purposely unnamed country, if you must know) and hopefully destroy it and then go UUUUPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP and try not to pass out from the Gs and then avoid some surface-to-air missiles and hopefully enemy planes that are better and faster than your planes don’t notice. No sweat.