starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer
screenplay by Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie
directed by Joseph Kosinski
by Walter Chaw Joseph Kosinski's Top Gun: Maverick (hereafter Maverick) does everything the Tony Scott original did well a little bit better and doesn't bother with the rest. What drives this legacy sequel is the sobriety with which it addresses the passage of time--the existential horror of being the oldest person at the bar, of all those pictures that look like what you think you still look like, of the toll of watching your children outgrow you while every anchor you have to this world withers and dies. It is, in other words, a spectacular action film and a mature character drama whose closest analogue might be Danny Boyle's T2 Trainspotting--a film that, likewise, took its cue from a showy and popular first film and forged from it a work of real substance and surprising pathos. What's most impressive is how balanced Maverick feels. Its action component is plotted out like an elaborate, aerial heist flick with the stakes obvious and the steps delineated cleanly and simply, so that when it finally comes time to set the dominos in motion and things inevitably go wrong, it's clear how they went wrong. The picture's dramatic component is as carefully metered: the love interest and her expectations; the lost father/orphaned son dynamic and how to salvage it; the old rivals-turned-friends and what they owe each other at the end. Maverick is a clockwork, a model of efficiency and effective storytelling; there are multiple avenues to appreciating this movie. I was afraid a sequel to a macho, homoerotic recruitment video bankrolled by the United States military would have no sense of its silliness. I'm happy to be wrong.