‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Takes It to the Limit

1 Comment

Top Gun: Maverick (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Monica Barbaro, Charles Parnell, Jay Ellis, Greg Tarzan Davis, Bashir Salahuddin

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Running Time: 131 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Danger Behind Enemy Lines

Release Date: May 27, 2022

Let’s throw it right out there to begin. Does Top Gun: Maverick make me once again want to have the need, the need for speed? I won’t mince words: sort of, but not exactly. Those aerial acrobatics certainly had my adrenaline pumping, but patience is a virtue when watching this movie. Two hours and eleven minutes isn’t exactly a bloated running time for a big blockbuster action sequel, but when the majority of the action consists of training sessions leading up to The One Big Mission, you feel the weight of the wait. And as far as I, a humble movie viewer, can tell … that is exactly what everyone involved was going for! We get to see the work that goes into pushing limits, we all hold our collective breath, and we pray that everyone makes it out of the danger zone. And then Lady Gaga brings it on home with a rapturous rock ballad. That’s the formula for Top Gun Success in 2022.

You may be wondering why Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is still flying with the new class of pilots 36 years after we first met him. It’s not just because Tom Cruise is incorrigible about doing his own stunts. Metatextually, that is the reason, of course, but within the context of the narrative, it’s because Maverick just doesn’t want to be promoted beyond captain. Responsibility blows, right? Nevertheless, this state of affairs means that he’s the best person to train the new crop of Top Gun pilots (which includes at least one offspring of a former colleague) for an impossible mission. And what a doozy of an impossible mission it is, as they have to wipe out a uranium enrichment site in some mountainous nation (that remains hilariously unnamed the whole movie) by executing some dangerously sharp descents and ascents. It’s a very specific, contained situation to build an entire story around, and it mostly works.

If you’re hoping for the same bonhomie as the original, it’s certainly there, with a round of beach football taking the place of the volleyball. But the main attraction is all the clearly defined aerial action. The maneuvers require so much G-force that loss of consciousness is fully expected. We’re talking fainting while piloting thousands of feet up in the air! I could feel myself being flattened like a pancake in my seat just watching it. This is a portrait of the test of human limits that will have your throat in your stomach, your brain in your toes, and your soul dying and reincarnating. The danger zone is alive and well.

Top Gun: Maverick is Recommended If You Like: Watching planes fly by before football or baseball games

Grade: 4 out of 5 G-Forces

Do You Want to See Peter Dinklage Sing About Vicarious Love? Then Maybe Check Out the Latest Version of ‘Cyrano’

Leave a comment

Cyrano (CREDIT: Peter Mountain/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bashir Salahuddin

Director: Joe Wright

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some War Violence and Mild Suggestiveness

Release Date: January 28, 2022 (Limited Theaters)/February 11, 2022 (Wide Expansion)

If you’re a fan of classic romances, you’re probably familiar with the story of Cyrano de Bergerac. He’s in love with a woman named Roxanne, but because of his insecurity related to his distractingly large and pointy nose, he struggles to admit his true feelings. Meanwhile, Roxanne falls in love with another man named Christian, and that infatuation is profoundly deepened by Christian wooing her with the words provided to him by Cyrano, who knows Roxanne better than anyone. But in this version, it’s what Cyrano lacks on his body that’s causing the problem, as he’s portrayed by Peter Dinklage, and he fundamentally doesn’t believe that Roxanne (here played by Haley Bennett) could ever truly love someone who’s only four and a half feet tall.

Also unique about this version of Cyrano is that it’s – wait for it – a musical. Much of the vocal duties fall to the title lover, and Dinklage is certainly up for the assignment. He has a rich, soulful baritone that’s perfect for the constant (but incomplete) soul-searching that Cyrano is always up to. You can count on him for talking to himself, which can be good, but not so much when it prevents him from fully and honestly talking to other people.

Dinklage’s singing reminds me of Russell Crowe’s in Les Misérables, and I mean that’s a compliment. Crowe was my favorite singer in that movie! It would be distracting if Dinklage’s Cyrano were more inclined to difficult vocal acrobatics; instead, he’s singing because he just can’t help it, just as he can’t help but miss out on the fullness of himself. As for the rest of the main cast’s crooning abilities, Bennett and Kelvin Harris Jr. as Christian also both acquit themselves admirably.

Overall, if you’re looking for a love story that lives on the knife’s edge of tragedy and consummation, then Cyrano ought to do the trick. Everyone is passionate and ready to go, and if you don’t recognize at least some of their emotions in yourself, I’m not sure you have a fully functioning heart.

Cyrano is Recommended If You Like: Flowy dresses, Stubble, Singing by yourself while standing outside a wall

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Letters