‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Takes It to the Limit

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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

This Is a Movie Review: mother!

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I don’t want to get into too many specifics, or really any specifics at all about mother!, even though I could just include a spoiler alert, and I imagine plenty of people reading this review have already seen it anyway. The plain truth is, this movie benefits particularly from going into it with as few preconceived notions as possible, perhaps more so than any other movie ever (give or take a Cabin in the Woods). The marketing has been so vague that anyone who feels like they’ve been misled really shouldn’t feel that way. For those who knew that they were getting into something unpredictable, there have been some criticisms that it is too heavy-handed, too unsubtle, and/or too cacophonous to effectively work as metaphor. And that may well be, but the whole thing is too deliriously energetic to not be enjoyable. This is… cinema.

One more note: if she weren’t already famous with her SNL persona, Kristen Wiig could easily establish a reputation as a character actress specializing in publicist/agent/manager roles.

I give mother! my acknowledgement that it exists.