No Points For Second Place: Top Gun: Maverick (2022) - Reviewed

36 years after Tony Scott and Tom Cruise teamed for the original Top Gun, we're taken back to the world of dogfights and military might with a throwback sequel that lives up to its namesake in tone, spectacle, and a heavy dose of '80s reminiscence. It would be a vast understatement to say the flight scenes here are nothing short of cinematic gold. 

Copping an extremely similar narrative to the first film, a much older but still youthful looking Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell is now tasked with leading a new team of readied Top Gun pilots for a death defying mission against an unnamed foreign adversary. The odds are stacked against them in a plot that's front loaded with messages of friendship, family, and (of course) legacy. With the never aging Cruise leading the charge, this sequel which was years in the making capitalizes on nostalgia as director Joseph Kosinski delivers a callback to old school action cinema that's marked by a few writing missteps along the way. At one point, the story becomes fully implausible but might be purposeful considering the project's direct correlation to everything retro. 

Many are going to make direct comparisons to the original film. Story beats are almost hand in hand with the 1986 movie. Some scenes are shot for shot recreations. At times, Top Gun: Maverick plays much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Creed, screening like an updated remake of the original to comfort old audiences with similarities while also introducing a new viewership to the world of Top Gun. At its worst, Maverick is comfort food for a starving audience that lived through the Reagan years. At its best, Kosinski's work is a spitting image of Tony Scott's style and creativity that offers up some of the best flight cinematography ever captured on film, while being a damn good continuation of Mitchell's story arc decades later. 

Kosinski knows who he's playing to here.
Maverick is a nearly perfect rendition of a bygone era that plays into the eyes and ears of the Gex X crowd as he understands how to entertain their children too. This new entry plays the exact same cards of American exceptionalism as he defies the current trend of massive franchise films and comic book movies by hitting the reset switch on Top Gun with a movie that's high on actual risk taking and amazing aeronautics that use nearly all practical visual effects.

Adding to the aerial luster of the movie is an absolutely stellar cast that features major players Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer, Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, and a phenomenal set of younger actors as the flight team. Yet, the key to the entire backbone of the story is one certifiably talented Miles Teller. He carries much of the film as Goose's son, Bradley 'Rooster' Bradshaw. The interplay between him and Cruise adds a heavy emotional weight to the story that was definitely needed. The timeliness of their broken bond along with a parental dynamic shifts the narrative of the film, making it a definite must see. 

Top Gun 2 was in development since 2010. Initially, Tony Scott was set to reprise his directorial role on the sequel. Sadly, he passed away and the script sat dormant for years, eventually going through numerous drafts and rewrites. Luckily for all of us, this may be the best version we were going to get. Cruise and company have delivered the nearly impossible. Almost 40 years after its launch, Top Gun is back in fine form with a sequel that does exactly what it should. It gives audiences a story and characters to cheer for as we're treated to some of the greatest flight scenes ever put to film. The two years of delays have been worth it.