Before the film Top Gun: Maverick, actor and producer Tom Cruise thanks the audience for seeing this movie in the theater rather than waiting to see it on demand or on dvd, and this film is definitely one that is worth seeing on the big screen. Similarly, he also praises the realism of the movie in its effects and flying, stating that this film was years in the making, and the film’s credits give a lot of credit and honor to the naval aviators responsible for helping in the production, which has hopefully not contributed to a rash of accidents that have led to a grounding of the naval air arm of late. When it comes to the production values of this movie, this is a great movie, and also one that includes in its spectacle and its story of bonding a deep and moving emotional heart that works largely through Cruise’s own commitment to his character and to making things difficult for himself.
In watching this movie, I was struck by the relevance of this film to contemporary problems. I’m not sure how much of it was intentional, but it was moving all the same. The film’s plot deals with a desperate last-minute attempt to avoid nuclear proliferation to an enemy of the United States and its regional allies, who are carefully not directly identified, in a case where the American aviators, who have been puffed up their entire careers, are forced to deal resourcefully from a perspective of disadvantage given the setup of the area they have to attack. Tom Cruise’s Maverick is a career captain who has never turned the major’s corner and reached higher office because of his inability to anything else other than what he is, an insanely talented naval aviator whose only ally, Admirable Iceman, is on death’s door as he faces his last assignment before being cashiered from the Navy. The struggles of the mission and the struggles of his personal life reveal Maverick to be symbolic of larger problems in the United States. In our military as well as in other institutions, we face a problem as a nation where mavericks are needed sorely for things to get done, but at the same time institutions throttle and abuse them and thwart their career progression. And if this film offers a positive ending, it demonstrates the barriers faced by nonconformists who disdain political machinations.
One of the areas that this film shines in is the way that one is led to care about the characters. Although the enemy pilots who form the menacing Act 3 threat are not shown, so that we do not think of them as characters at all, perhaps all the better not to offend other nations and their film audiences, the American characters themselves are framed well. The film offers a chance for reconciliation as well as redemption for Maverick and for a lot of other characters, who end up recognizing that while they are not as good as they have always been told that they are, they can become better and work together even if institutions tend to be problematic, as is demonstrated clearly here. Not only is this a great movie, but it’s a movie that prompts some genuine soul-searching and also provides a good template for other movies to follow when it comes to encouraging mavericks within society to provide the insight America needs in its time of crises.