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Film Review: Top Gun Maverick

FILM REVIEW
TOP GUN: MAVERICK
Rated PG-13
137 Minutes
Released May 27th

I love films where the cast actually lives through the story in order to transport it to the screen. Top Gun: Maverick is one of those movies, a beautifully made, thrilling action film where human strength, courage, skill and agility are tested. It reminds me of the inspiring short stories written by Dalton Trumbo in the 1920’s about sports where the athlete triumphs against all odds through human resilience and persistence. Incidentally, Trumbo became one of the great screenwriters of all time. The screenplay for Top Gun: Maverick is simple, straightforward and human like Trumbo’s stories, allowing the performances, camera work and editing of the film to shine.

We pick up on the history of “Maverick,” Tom Cruise’s character, 30 years after the original1986 film Top Gun. Maverick has refused promotions in the Navy so that he can remain a fighter pilot and train those coming into the program. The making of this sequel is an odyssey in itself. The plan for a sequel was announced in 2010, with original team Jerry Bruckheimer producing and Tony Scott directing, and by 2012 a first draft was finished. However the project was put on hold when Scott died by suicide. In 2017, a new script was drafted and casting completed. The film was shot from May 2018 to April 2019. Release was scheduled for July 2019 but put on hold to polish complex action sequences. Before a new release date could be established, the pandemic happened. So, it’s finally released now, 12 years after the sequel was announced.

From an editor’s viewpoint, I’m guessing that editor Eddie Hamilton and his team had plenty of time during these delays for fine-tuning of the very complex and intricate aerial scenes. These scenes show exquisite work by cinematographers, actors and editors, and allow the audience to feel the massive forces of speed against gravity in the cockpit and the intricate precision of landing a hurtling fighter jet on the short hull of an aircraft carrier. The editors shaped some 800 hours of very complex footage into a fluid story that is great fun to watch. It makes you feel like you’re piloting a fighter jet, which is the whole point.

Cruise was the ultimate guide of the whole production and insisted that the cast really fly on fighter jets. They did not pilot them of course. The US Navy lent Cruise F/A-18 Super Hornets and the actors, including Cruise, rode with Navy pilots. Cruise put his cast through rigorous training to understand piloting and to withstand the g-force involved. Consider that when you feel the pressure of g-force on a serious roller coaster, it’s about 2 g’s. They had to train their bodies to withstand up to about 7.5 g’s to perform their roles. They had to learn to operate their own cameras to basically shoot “selfie” scenes while they were riding in the F-18’s. All the cast members are to be commended. Miles Teller is a great foil to Cruise as “Lt. Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw,” since Teller is the same kind of hyper physical actor as Cruise. When Teller shot Whiplash, he often ended the day with bloody hands from the intensity with which he approached his role as a drummer. Monica Barbaro is “Lt. Natasha ‘Phoenix’ Trace.” She credits years of ballet training for providing her with the ability to endure the incredible level of pain that was a reality on the shoot. The whole ensemble is to be highly commended.

So the cast and crew lived through the action that you see on screen to bring you the experience that you will have when you see this movie. The release of the film was held back repeatedly in order for it to be seen only on the big screen. Kevin LaRosa, the film’s aerial coordinator notes, “When you’re sitting in a movie theater, watching it on this massive screen, and you can feel the sound in your chest when a Hornet and F-18 super Hornet is starting up — that’s the experience of this movie. It’s the only way you’re going to get that visceral thrill ride, and that’s what people deserve when they watch this movie because that’s what it’s built for.” This uniquely cinematic story is about bravery, skill, perseverance, challenge and heart, as are all classic stories throughout history.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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