Cruise in top form. There’s really no other way to say it. This 1986
movie is a bright, beautifully shot story about Maverick (Cruise), a
pilot whose father’s legacy weighs heavily on him.
Maverick’s father, also a pilot, was killed in combat along with
other men. Many of his fellow pilots still think it was his
fault. Once Maverick is recruited
to join the Top
Gun Naval Flying School, his fellow pilots won’t let his father’s past
got a lot to prove, and makes a lot of enemies on the way, most notably
Iceman (the ruggedly handsome Val Kilmer). Maverick meets and woos
Charlie, a civilian flight instructor (Kelly McGillis), who has got a
pretty tough exterior of her own.
So much about this movie works. There’s the music, for starters. The theme
song, “Take My Breath Away,” won an Oscar for best original song that
year, with music by Giorgio Moroder and lyrics by Tom Whitlock. The song
still stands up today as a pretty darn moving ballad.
(Another terrific song from the film, but one which perhaps hasn’t stood
the test of time so well, was “Danger Zone.” It was pitch-perfect for
the movie and it was sung by 80s great Kenny Loggins!)
The movie is at its heart an action film. The flying scenes are a combination of
tension, due to their military nature and the personality clashes going
on, and beauty, really giving the viewer a taste of what it feels like
to soar. That can’t have been an easy note to strike, but the filmmakers
struck it well (the movie was directed by Tony Scott).
wait, there’s more! There’s also a juicy romance here. Charlie and
Maverick are both so accustomed to flying solo (pun intended) that they
aren’t too skilled at being part of a couple. Their tension feels so
real, and there’s a satisfying sense that neither one has to give up his
or her true self to be together.
And speaking of romance, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the
homoerotic undertones of this movie. Between all the buff and handsome
pilots, the Maverick/Iceman-Maverick/Goose relationships, and all those
locker-room scenes, the romance being suggested here goes beyond the
overt heterosexual Charlie/Maverick story line. In fact, there’s a
downright campy side to this movie, the height of which occurs as the
shirtless pilots play a sweaty, high-stakes game of volleyball, set to
the song “Playing with the Boys”
Cruise is perfect for this part (though the list of actors who were
considered before him is considerable). He’s young and new enough that
his trademark brashness is absolutely right. He still, as an actor, has
that impressive combination of movie star and new kid, which worked
perfectly in his portrayal of a character who is an impressive
combination of genius pilot and maverick newbie.
Speaking of newbies (to the big screen at least), Meg Ryan appears in this
film as Carole. It’s one of her first forays into films after years on
TV in Y&R and a few others. (In 1983 she appeared in the illustrious
Carole is married to Goose, a pilot played by the always-adorable Anthony
Edwards. Goose’s story is well-drawn and darn sad. We won’t give too
much away, just in case you haven’t seen this movie yet.
And if you have seen it, you may be surprised on seeing it again that it’s
fairly cheesy, in an earnest 80s sort of way. We were younger then.
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