TL;DR – Still a triumph, even if parts of it have not aged well in the years since.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Paramount+ streaming service that viewed this film
Top Gun Review –
Top Gun is one of those films that, even though it came out when I was young, I did see it thanks to it being on a constant rotation on local TV. However, as the new film was about to come out, I had to think about what did I remember from the film, and the answer was not that much. Sure there was the “I Feel The Need… The Need For Speed!”, the charged volleyball scene, the copious amount of Danger Zone, and the somewhat infamous way the US Military shaped the narrative and used it for promotion. Well, there is no better time like the present to dive back in and relive a classic.
So to set the scene, on March 3, 1969, the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Today it is called the Fighter Weapons School or TOPGUN. Over the seas, based off the USS Enterprise, pilot LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Radar LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) flying an F-14A Tomcat ping an unknown target and got to intercept. They think it was just one target, but it is a pair of MiG-28s. After some ‘fun’, they get the planes to disengage. But their wingman LT Bill “Cougar” Cortell (John Stockwell) freezes and is only saved by Maverick talking him down to a landing. It was a stupid stunt given how much fuel they had left, but it saved the day and booked them a ticket to TOPGUN at Naval Air Station Miramar.
One thing that I think we have lost today is the impact of the opening credits. In modern times we have ditched them to the wayside, and to be fair, a lot of the time, it was a dull presentation of names with no art. However, it is an opportunity to not only set a scene but a mood. We take those minutes watching those planes take off and land on the carrier imbued in a sepia tone. Instead of this being just performative, the film pulls back and just uses the sounds of the planes and, of course, Danger Zone. The impacts and screeches of tires bring you into the world, so you are already ready before that first dogfight begins.
Another thing the film excels in is the depiction of the dogfights. It uses a combination of techniques to make it all work. The high octane insert cuts do nothing but ratchet up the tension. Isolated these would make it a visual mess, but the film is smart enough to know just when you need a small moment of stillness to tell the story. What we get is a roller-coaster that is just able to hold on by its bare fingernails, but it works. This is important. If the film could not sell the dogfights, it would fail because a lot of the story around it is a bit hit and miss. I think today we take for granted how far Tom Cruise will go to get the scene, even hanging off planes in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. But you see that same determination here.
What I did find interesting is how the film dissects masculinity throughout the film. Maverick and Iceman (Val Kilmer) strut around like two roosters about to go at each other in a movie devoid of female characters bar the love interest Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) and Goose’s wife Carol (Meg Ryan). The machismo is painted over every scene and in every performance, and it is overwhelming even if it is appropriate to the source. But then this machismo is smashed together with an overwhelming sexualisation of everyone in the cast. We take long pauses in locker rooms, insert volleyball scenes, and make sure that every stage they are covered in a sheen of perspiration. The juxtaposition is such an odd feeling throughout the film, but somehow, the film keeps it barrelling forward through sheer force of will.
However, for a film that is 36 years old at the time of writing, it should come as no surprise that a lot has not aged well. A lot of the dialogue scenes feel stilted, like people saying lines at each other rather than having a conversation. Then there is the romance subplot that does not work on any level, and the film is better when it mostly ditches it. Finally, if one part has not aged as well as the rest, it is the musical score. Whenever a guitar is not playing, honestly, it is lucky that it is not needed as much with the sounds of the planes.
In the end, do we recommend Top Gun? Yes, yes, we do. Look, some odd parts and some have not aged well. However, when this film is at its best, it is a triumph to watch, and you can’t help but get taken along for the ride. If you liked Top Gun, we would also recommend to you Dunkirk.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Top Gun
Directed by – Tony Scott
Written by – Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.
Based on –Top Guns by Ehud Yonay
Music by – Harold Faltermeyer
Cinematography by – Jeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by – Chris Lebenzon & Billy Weber
Production/Distribution Companies – Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films & Paramount Pictures
Starring – Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, John Stockwell, Barry Tubb, Rick Rossovich, Tim Robbins, Clarence Gilyard, Whip Hubley, James Tolkan, Meg Ryan & Adrian Pasdar
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: 12; United States: PG