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  • Writer's pictureValerie A. Higgs

2023 Academy Awards Best Picture Nominee: Top Gun - Maverick


A reckless yet brilliant fighter pilot gets called back to Top Gun to teach the next generation's best of the best to prepare them for a dangerous mission. Sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit Top Gun, originally directed by the late Tony Scott.

I'm full of questions.

Did I ask for a sequel to Top Gun? No. Did I enjoy the sequel to Top Gun? Hell, yeah!

Is Tom Cruise unstoppable? Seems like it. He needs to make a movie called Unstoppable and it should be a biography of Tom Cruise's life. You heard it here first.

He plays Pete Mitchell, otherwise known as Maverick, a very decorated, but barely promoted fighter pilot with authority issues. That means kids half his age outrank him. I think that's a problem, but Maverick is known for doing what he wants - the consequences be damned.

The military just loves that.

Former rival and now bestie, Iceman (a happily recast Val Kilmer), is now an admiral, and when an international crisis arises, he taps Maverick to come back to the Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) program, otherwise known as Top Gun, to train the latest crop of ego-inflated fighter pilots to handle the dangerous assignment.

Here's the problem: Maverick tried teaching before and hated it. But he has nowhere else to go, because all the officers who out-rank him can't stand him.

He realizes that his dead ex-partner Goose's son Bradley (played by Miles Teller) has made it to Top Gun despite all his efforts to keep him out of the program. There is animosity between Maverick and Bradley (aka Rooster), of course, but there is no time for that - they have a big job to prepare for.

Seems that things didn't work out between ex-girlfriend Charlie (played by Kelly McGillis in the original movie), probably due to his "buck the authority" nature, so the movie introduces a new (to us) love interest in Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly). She was apparently the one that got away. Connelly plays her as the coolest of cool girls (see Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl) and doesn't seem to challenge Maverick in any way. Maybe that was deliberate.

What was great about the sequel was that it stuck to the original formula. They didn't try anything new while keeping it fresh and exciting. I said to my partner toward the end of the movie, "Could it be that this movie is AS GOOD AS the original??"

The first movie set everything up and ended with a semi-question mark. We knew Maverick was going to teach at Top Gun, but that would require him to toe the line. For almost two hours, we watched Maverick rebuke that directive. While the original Top Gun does not necessarily leave it open-ended for a possible sequel, the audience may wonder: will Maverick finally buckle down and do a predictable, less exciting job while settling with his hot flight instructor?

The sequel answers those questions with no and no. And it doesn't take away from the new story. We knew that was going to happen.

Does Cinderella live happily ever with the prince? Stephen Sondheim answers that question. Act II of Into the Woods is Top Gun: Maverick, and we are thankful for it.

One unrealistic moment made me laugh but completely took me out of the movie for a moment.

Miles Teller is 35 years old. I'm not sure how old he's supposed to be in the movie, but part of the drama is that Maverick kept his character out of Top Gun long enough that he's older than the others in the program.

However, what is the probability that someone his age knows who Jerry Lee Lewis is? For the sake of argument, he probably knows the song because of his mother. But everyone else at that bar when he starts playing the piano? Absolutely not. Unless you are as old as Maverick, you don't know who or what Great Balls of Fire even are.

That would have been a solo performance -- AT BEST.

Putting that moment aside, whether this movie was deserving of an Oscar nomination is up for debate. I say no, though it is nice to see a blockbuster nominated instead of picking strictly esoteric films drooled over by critics (not that anything is wrong with that). The Phantom Thread it definitely is not.

But fine. It was nominated for Best Picture. What are its chances? Probably zero, but thanks for the opportunity.

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