- Directed by Tony Scott
- May 12, 1986 (NYC) / May 16, 1986 (US)
Students at the Navy’s fighter weapons school compete to be best of the best while one maverick, rule breaking pilot learns a few things from an instructor that are not taught in the classroom. Dear Lord! This sounds like a softcore porn film. Don’t get your hopes up.
I’ve never been enamored by Top Gun. Don’t get me wrong. There are some things this movie excels at such as the staging of the flight sequences. On that it is masterful but as a film it is cliché ridden and very much an 80s movie. I think its reputation rides largely on nostalgia of the time and that it stars Tom Cruise from when he is most fondly looked at in his career.
I’m not calling a terrible but rather I’m just calling it okay. How 80s is this film? James Tolkan, the bald actor who was every grumpy authoritarian figure of the era, is in this movie as CDR Tom “Stinger” Jardian, Commander of the USS Enterprise Carrier Air Group and Maverick’s commanding officer at the beginning of the movie. And he is all blustering and shouting and upset at his rule breaking pilot. Just like he was with every other rule breaker in all his other roles.
How cliché is Top Gun? The rule breaking central character of Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) has the callsign of ‘Maverick.’ The only way it could’ve been more on the nose was if his callsign was ‘Rule Breaker.’ And the rule breaker by the end of the film manages to earn the respect of the jerky Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) who is the closest thing we get to a villain.
And then there’s Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) is drawn to the damaged soul that is Maverick because that is how it always works. She gets the guy who is apparently averse to anything like a long-term relationship to at least give it a shot with her. And they probably break multiple regulations in a less than covert relationship but it’s no big deal to anybody.
This was the 80s when MTV was all about the music (that seems like a lifetime ago) and not about the reality show. This film has an amazing MTV friendly soundtrack, and each song is placed in a scene that is in presentation of music video quality. Pack a film with great music and great accompanying visuals and it usually becomes better way better than if people are forced to think about story.
There were certainly plenty of cool visuals and thrilling scenes. The flight sequences are some of the best on film. They are just amazing and I think have never been topped. The cinematography overall is just fantastic. It is a film that is just beautiful to look at. Cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball handled his duties masterfully.
Top Gun is one of those things that came along at the right time, and it has connected with audiences. A few years sooner or later and it would have been forgotten by now. I think the reason people still care about it today is the nostalgia generated by all the cool crap they packed in that perfectly encapsulated the time.
Yet it still captivates. It is just such a great visual watch that you cannot help but be drawn in. And despite a predictable and cliché story, those involved do an admirable job with their material both in front of and behind the camera. I admit to being able to watch until the end despite my issues.
Top Gun is an okay movie but, and I know this is heresy to many, it’s not that great. It’s an okay story carried largely by really cool visuals. You’ll probably watch it again simply because it IS cool viewing.