Top Gun: Maverick - Critics praise 'thrilling' sequel

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Image source, Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
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Tom Cruise has returned as Maverick in the sequel to Top Gun

Critics have praised the return of Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick, calling it a "barrier-breaking sequel" to the original 1986 fighter pilots movie.

Cruise reprises his starring role from one of the biggest movies of the 1980s, as hotshot US Navy pilot Maverick.

The Independent called it "as thrilling as blockbusters get", praising it as a "true legacy sequel".

The Telegraph called it "absurdly exciting" and "unquestionably the best studio action film in years".

Jennifer Connolly, Jon Hamm, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez, Val Kilmer, and Ed Harris appear alongside Cruise in the film, which is released in cinemas later this month.

Whiplash star Miles Teller plays Rooster - the son of Maverick's former partner Goose. Now a pilot himself, Rooster blames Maverick for his father's death in an accident in the first film.

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Jennifer Connelly plays bar owner Penny Benjamin in the film

The sequel sees Maverick return to the Top Gun flying academy - this time as an instructor in charge of training a new generation of pilots.

Top Gun: Maverick was originally scheduled to be released in 2019 but was delayed so the crew could finish work on the flight sequences. It was then further delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Variety's Peter Debruge said the "barrier-breaking sequel" is a "stunning follow-up", adding: "Hardly anything in Top Gun: Maverick will surprise you, except how well it does nearly all the things audiences want and expect it to do."

Debruge praised the scenes shot from plane cockpits for their authenticity. "It's the most immersive flight simulator audiences will have ever experienced," he said.

"If the flying scenes here blow your mind, it's because a great many of them are the real deal, putting audiences right there in the cockpit alongside a cast who learned to pilot for their parts."

In a five-star review, The Telegraph's Robbie Collin suggested the "play of light and gravity on the actors' faces, and the way the landscapes spin and drop away balletically through the canopy glass, puts other blockbusters' green-screened swooping to shame".

Image source, Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
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Miles Teller plays the son of Maverick's former partner Goose

"Watching Cruise's return as Maverick is so outrageously pleasurable largely because the actor himself treats it as pleasure," he said.

Collin praised the "sleek and surprisingly moving plot", calling the movie "Dad Cinema at its eye-crinkling apogee: all rugged wistfulness and rough-and-tumble comradeship, interspersed with flight sequences so preposterously exciting and involving they seem to invert the cinema through 180 degrees".

The Los Angeles' Times's Justin Chang wrote: "A lot of consideration and calculation have clearly gone into this long-aborning blockbuster sequel, insofar as Cruise (one of the producers) and his collaborators have taken such clear pains to maintain continuity with the events, if not the style, of the first film.

"Top Gun: Maverick is a longer, costlier and appreciably weightier affair, and its expanded emotional scope and heightened production values give it a classy, elegiac sheen; it's like a hot summer diversion in prestige-dinosaur drag, or vice versa. As a rare big-budget Hollywood movie about men and women who fly without capes, it has a lot riding on it."

The Independent's Clarisse Loughrey said the film would delight audiences, calling it "the kind of edge-of-your-seat, fist-pumping spectacular that can unite an entire room full of strangers sitting in the dark and leave them with a wistful tear in their eye".

She explained the sequel is structured like the original Top Gun film, calling the new recruits "roughly reshaped versions of the old characters".

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Critics praised the footage shot from plane cockpits

But, Loughrey noted, the women from the previous film, Meg Ryan and Kelly McGillis, don't feature in this one. "There'll come a time when we need to talk about why Hollywood only accepts older women who look a certain way," she said.

"Until then, who can be blamed for getting swept up by a film this damned fun?"

Debruge agreed in his review for Variety, writing: "The rules are cruel when it comes to ageing female actors".

There was less enthusiasm from The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who felt the film was "missing the homoerotic tensions of the 80s original" and is "actually less progressive on gender issues than the original film, which did after all put a woman in charge".

But, he said in his three-star review, Cruise's "movie-star chops are still miraculous", adding that the audience would enjoy "plenty of rock'n'roll fighter-pilot action".

The sequel has a female pilot but not a trainer, a character which was played by McGillis in Top Gun.

Connelly plays Maverick's love interest Penny Benjamin in Top Gun: Maverick, in what Bradshaw calls "an entirely thankless part", although Collin called it "a neat, lower-key role".

Image source, Getty Images
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The cast includes [L=R] Cruise, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez, Jon Hamm, Connelly and Teller, with director Joe Kosinski in the centre

Kilmer's Top Gun character Iceman has become an admiral in the sequel. The actor's appearance comes after he had two tracheotomies as a result of throat cancer.

Bradshaw wrote that Kilmer "gamely contributes a cameo" in a "genuinely touching dialogue scene" with Cruise.

Hamm also received praise from Collin for "a great supporting role... as the Vice Admiral who has to look constantly furious about our hero's unconventional methods."

The Times's Kevin Maher called the film a "glorious pulse-quickening sequel".

He added that that what is "genuinely impressive" is impressive is how screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise and the director, Joseph Kosinski, "have excavated genuine emotion from the material, specifically in the guilt that Maverick feels over the death of his former buddy Goose, and in the paternal affection he harbours for... Goose's son, Rooster".

He concluded: "No one, obviously, watches a Top Gun movie for the tears - although do bring that hankie - and the spectacle here has certainly gone stratospheric.

"With cameras inside cockpits and strapped to wings and nose cones, Kosinski has delivered a vertiginous pulse-quickening monster of movie. See it on the biggest screen possible. Then see it again."

Image source, Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
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One critic said Cruise's pleasure in being in the film is palpable

Debruge said the movie "demonstrates why we feel the need for movie stars", saying: "It's the way we identify with the guy when he's doing what most of us thought impossible. Turns out we need Maverick now more than ever."

Top Gun: Maverick had its world premiere on board an aircraft carrier in San Diego last week.

It will also have a gala presentation at Cannes Film Festival next week, followed by a royal screening in London for its UK premiere.

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