Top Gun: Maverick
After more than 30 years, Tom Cruise has returned to his most iconic characte with the thrilling and long-awaited sequel, Top Gun: Maverick. Cruise stars as the hotshot fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who after a long and decorated career still hasn’t progressed beyond the rank of captain, and still has his need for speed. After disobeying a direct order, Maverick is reassigned to the Top Gun Naval Academy to train a group of the Navy’s most skilled young pilots for a dangerous mission. Amongst the group of cadets is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s former RIO (radar intercept officer) Goose, who died on a mission several decades earlier. Tensions are high in the training group, with Rooster struggling to come to terms with his past with Maverick behind him and the ongoing rivalry between Rooster and fellow pilot Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell). Will the new class of pilots be able to find some comradery and accomplish their mission?
Top Gun: Maverick is able to succeed where many other long gestating sequels stumble. Maverick is very respectful of Tony Scott’s film, but the new release manages to sidestep becoming an endless stream of loving homages and recreations of scenes from the original. Though, as the opening credits featuring Kenny Loggins’ “Highway to the Danger Zone” from the original film blaring at full volume should let you know; Top Gun: Maverick knows how to push the right nostalgia buttons. Director Joseph Kosinski deftly handles the airborne action sequences, shooting and cutting the speeding aircrafts like a jet fueled orchestra, accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s new take on Harold Faltermeyer’s classic score. The flight sequences look phenomenal. Captured with IMAX cameras, they are easily legible and the objectives of the scenes are well communicated.
Top Gun: Maverick is also impeccably cast, each actor perfectly suits their role; from the briefly seen Ed Harris as the gruff Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain to the no nonsense Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson played by Jon Hamm, who spends the entire runtime in his “that’s what the money is for!” zone. The young crew of pilots (played by Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Greg Tarzan Davis, Lewis Pullman and Danny Ramirez) are all charming and believable in their parts. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see any one of them snapped for an upcoming superhero vacancy in the near future, but it’s Powell as Hangman, the spiritual successor to Val Kilmer’s Iceman, who really pops off the screen as the charming foil to Rooster. Miles Teller finally lives up to the promise he showed in earlier work such as Whiplash and The Spectacular Now, at times coming toe to toe with the star at the center of this universe. But it is Cruise who shines brightest in the film, rolling back the years to bring out the charisma that made him the biggest movie star in the world after the release of the first Top Gun 36 years ago.
Top Gun: Maverick should become the new blueprint for legacy sequels that arrive decades after their predecessor. It is an exciting film that is respectful of Tony Scott’s work but still manages to do its own thing that, in some ways, surpasses the original. A crowd-pleasing big budget adventure that hits all the right notes for a summer blockbuster.
Filmmaker Alex Garland has established himself as the preeminent purveyor of darkly twisted, horror-infused science fiction with his films Ex Machina and Annihilation. But those films are just table settings for the grotesqueness of his latest film, the visceral and challenging Men, which like many effective horror films deals with grief and trauma as its core themes. The film picks up with Harper (Jessie Buckley), a woman who is heading for a retreat to the countryside in the aftermath of a shocking personal tragedy. However, whilst in the idyllic county setting, a creeping sense of dread takes over her, as she believes she is being stalked by someone, or something, from within the surrounding woods, as her fears and dark memories trap her in a living nightmare. Garland’s singular flair for psychological horror is on full display here, creating some unforgettable images of out of this world trauma that plays out like a terrifyingly vivid dream. Buckley, who is becoming something of a critical darling following her acclaimed performances in Wild Rose and The Lost Daughter, gives another strong turn here, as a woman being pushed to the brink of her sanity. Men is a tense and daring horror film that is likely to spark some intense debates and discussion as it takes a lot of risks in its narrative and visuals from a transgressive filmmaker whose career is just blooming.