At The Movies: A whole lot of Cruise, not much crew in Top Gun

Top Gun: Maverick delivers visual kicks without leaning on cartoonish digital crutches. PHOTO: UIP

Top Gun: Maverick (PG13)

131 minutes, opens May 26

3 stars

The story: More than three decades on from the events of Top Gun (1986), Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is now a test pilot. But he is called back to the Top Gun fighter-pilot school for a dangerous new mission and has to pass on his skills to a group of elite young officers. Among them is Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller), son of Nick "Goose" Bradshaw, whose death weighs on Maverick's conscience. Running a bar close to the Top Gun base is Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), a woman he loved and left years ago.

Two reasons to watch Top Gun: Maverick:

1. Stunning aerobatic action

This is the rare action movie that delivers visual kicks without leaning on cartoonish digital crutches. Director Joseph Kosinski, with Cruise's encouragement, has opted to keep the visuals grounded in reality. The aeroplanes twist and dodge like real objects that work with gravity, heightening the thrills and sense of danger when they make low-level manoeuvres.

2. Chemistry between Cruise and Connelly

Jennifer Connelly and Tom Cruise dance around each other's boundaries while passive-aggressively addressing past wounds. PHOTO: UIP

It is rare to find such care and attention given to a tender relationship between two older characters in a blockbuster. Connelly and Cruise dance around each other's boundaries, flirting heavily while passive-aggressively addressing past wounds.

It would have been easy to write their relationship in a typical zero-to-sixty action-movie manner, or have a navy officer in dress whites sweep a swooning girl off her feet, but the screenplay makes sure that once-cavalier Maverick earns Penny's affection.

One reason to stay away:

1. The Cruise factor, cranked to overdrive

There is no ensemble cast to take the attention away from the overwhelming Cruise-iness of the whole affair. PHOTO: UIP

Like it says on the tin, this movie is Maverick's journey. Unlike, say, the Mission: Impossible series (1996 to present, six movies to date, with more on the way), there is no ensemble cast to take the attention away from the overwhelming Cruise-iness of the whole affair.

This is a shame as there are glimpses of a racially- and gender-diverse team of pilots that could have used that Cruise time. It would most likely have made the story richer and more representative of an America different from the one shown in the first movie.

The film also shows the military taking a pre-emptive strike on an unnamed nation, so for those sensitive to embedded political messages, take this as a trigger warning.

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