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"Top Gun: Maverick" accomplishes three miracles

Top Gun: Maverick

Starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis and Ed Harris. Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Opens May 27 at theatres everywhere (plus early previews). 137 minutes. PG

⭐⭐⭐½ (out of 4)

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

We’re advised in this vein-popping sequel to “Top Gun” that “two consecutive miracles” are needed for the success of a high-risk covert mission by the flyboys (and gals) of America’s elite air school.

A third miracle is achieved from the get-go. Cruise and company bring fresh drama and heart to this followup “Top Gun” tale, directed by Joseph Kosinski. The movie exceeds the 1986 original in ways few people could have predicted after sequel plans were grounded for decades. The bar was admittedly low, since the first “Top Gun” was more of an extended music video than a movie.

There are many callbacks to the original film, but newcomers won’t have trouble keeping up. Cruise is still playing Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a fighter pilot of incredible skill and bravery but prone to pissing off his commanding officers, who are played this time by Jon Hamm and Ed Harris.

Maverick’s propensity for troublemaking explains why, 30 years after the original story, he holds the rank of Captain, not Admiral. It’s also why he’s being shipped back to Top Gun to train a new team of pilots to pull off a covert bombing raid on an enemy uranium cache that’s as complicated and as dangerous as Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star. The Top Gun pilots have three weeks to get it done, maybe less.

Cruise has aged into the role nicely, but Maverick still lives up to his call name. There’s excellent interplay between him and new characters Rooster (Miles Teller), the angry son of Maverick’s late flying partner, and Penny (Jennifer Connelly), a barkeep who brings levity and love to the story. Maverick also has affecting scenes with Val Kilmer’s Iceman character, a former flying rival and now close friend, who is fighting a serious disease, just as Kilmer is in real life.

But it’s the action that sells the popcorn and this film really delivers on that front, especially when it’s time to put the impossible bombing raid into play.

A reminder of the simple pleasures of 1980s movies, “Top Gun: Maverick” will be hard to beat as the summer’s best blockbuster. 🌓

(This review originally ran in the Toronto Star.)


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