Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick ★★★★★

It would be easy for me to echo the discourse and wax poetic about how no one does it better than Tom Cruise, even as his star power and command of the box office is being eclipsed by the arrow of time (and of course the corporate franchise machine), but that's not really the driving force of this film's excellence. Though Top Gun: Maverick quickly reveals itself - for those who've kept up with Cruise's work, at least - as a chronicle of the leading man's unbelievable dedication to his craft and that certain old-school charm of moviemaking, there's a quiet assuredness to its structure and execution that just dazzled me in a way very few of these legacy-quels achieve.

It's a knowingly retrograde effort that has just about every callback that fans of Tony Scott's original would expect: Orange skies, snappy editing of fighter jets in flight, glistening, shirtless men playing ball on the beach, and most of all, "Danger Zone." All of this and more should feel old hat and rather tiresome, but director Joseph Kosinski (of Tron: Legacy fame) is no stranger to making the old feel new again. He knows exactly when to fire the engines up and cool them down again, resulting in a blockbuster that features some of the most thrilling sequences I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing on the big screen.

It's also surprisingly moving, building on the original's sense of camaraderie and bromance by adding consequences and stakes that were in short supply the first time. No doubt you will be ready to grip your seat in excitement, but you may also need a few tissues. Not bad for a late sequel to a feature-length Navy recruitment video.

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