Somehow, I'd missed seeing TOP GUN as a kid, as a teenager, and, up till now, an adult. Driven by a sudden brain freeze on what to watch when starting my next workout watch, the Prime Fire Amazon Alexa stick drove itself onto Tom Cruise's impeccable smile and, lacking any reason why not, I tapped play.
- There's something off-putting about seeing such a ra-ra military movie in 2020. In the 80's, with the Soviet Union lingering around, it made more sense to have a straight-up positive attitude towards big fighter jets and aircraft carriers. TOP GUN isn't interested in the nuances of military conflict, nor does it need to be, but, as ever, watching an older movie through today's eyes brings new questions. However, to TOP GUN's advantage, its scope is narrow enough that it doesn't present an America-as-world-police point of view - you can root for Maverick and Goose without getting hung up on politics.
- That volleyball scene is hilarious. For far too long, the four main pilots hit a volleyball back and forth in the sand. Tom Cruise is, inexplicably, wearing long pants. The action cuts back and forth in a way that you can't tell who's winning, what the score is, or whether anyone cares. Is there a point to this scene beyond showing that pilots have fun too? I dunno, but it's great.
- Cruise kills this role. You never really learn anything about him other than his father, also a pilot, died mysteriously on a mission. He's a paper-thin character that Cruise, through his smile, cocky energy, and hard swings into moody angst, nonetheless makes a compelling follow. You never doubt Maverick's gonna come out on top, and you never doubt that he's a good guy, but that doesn't matter because it's too much fun.
- After STAR WARS, you'd think the flight scenes would be more coherent. Flying fighter jets is compelling, and there's some good shots in there, but I found it really hard to track where people were during the dogfights. Planes would appear and disappear, locks would happen instantly or take forever. Helmets covered faces and call signs made it hard to know who was talking. Weirdly, for as much as this movie focuses on the planes, I found everything outside the cockpit more interesting.
- That soundtrack wins the movie. Stuffed with classics that are used with precision, TOP GUN nails the always-tricky inclusion of non-orchestral music. Coupled with the roaring fighter engines, the blurry dawn, or a raucous bar, the songs hit their notes and keep you humming right along with Cruise and co.
Overall? Fun times! Is it going to win any awards for deepest plot or most compelling drama? Nah, but it doesn't have to. TOP GUN flies straight and fast, and it's over well before you get tired of pilot bros being pilot bros. Now I'm definitely going to watch the sequel...