Top Gun

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) flies a F-14A Tomcat off USS Enterprise (CVN-65), with Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) as his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). At the start of the film, Maverick and his wingman “Cougar” (John Stockwell), intercept MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean. During the standoff, one of the MiGs manages to get a missile lock on Cougar. Maverick realizes that the MiG is only trying to intimidate Cougar and drives it off, but Cougar is too shaken afterward to land. Maverick defies orders and shepherds Cougar back to the carrier as both planes run critically low on fuel. After they land, Cougar retires (“turns in his wings”), stating that he has been holding on “too tight” and has lost “the edge”, almost orphaning his newborn child, whom he has never seen. Although disapproving of Maverick’s reckless flying and repeated violations of rules, the Enterprise’s CAG “Stinger” (James Tolkan) sends Maverick and Goose—now his top crew—to attend the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, known as “Top Gun”, at NAS Miramar.

Maverick flies recklessly partly because of his father, Duke Mitchell, a Naval Aviator with the VF-51 squadron aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34) during the Vietnam War. The elder Mitchell died on November 5, 1965, when his Phantom was shot down. The official story, which Maverick refuses to believe, is that Duke made a mistake. Goose is much more cautious and devoted to his wife, Carole (Meg Ryan), and child. The two officers are nonetheless close friends and effective partners, with Maverick considering Goose as his only family. At a bar the day before the Top Gun program starts, Maverick, assisted by Goose, unsuccessfully approaches a woman named Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) by singing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. He learns the next day that Charlie is a civilian contractor described as having a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and serving as a Top Gun instructor.

Maverick’s reckless flying both annoys and impresses Lieutenant Commander Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Michael Ironside) and other instructors. He defeats Jester in combat, but violates two rules of engagement in the process and is strongly reprimanded by the chief instructor, Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt). Maverick continues to pursue Charlie and becomes a rival to top student Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kasansky (Val Kilmer)—who considers Maverick’s methods dangerous and unsafe. Although outwardly critical of Maverick’s tactics, Charlie eventually admits that she admires his flying but was critical because she was afraid for her credibility. They begin a romantic relationship.

During one flight, Maverick breaks off from his wingman “Hollywood” to go one-on-one with Viper, described as “the finest fighter pilot in the world”. Although Maverick matches the older pilot move for move, Viper lasts long enough for Jester—who has defeated Hollywood off-screen—to maneuver around and “shoot” Maverick down, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability.

Near the end of the program, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester, the latter attempting to gain a missile lock on the target. Under intense pressure from Maverick, Iceman breaks off. Maverick’s F-14 flies through the jet wash of Iceman’s aircraft and suffers a flameout of both engines, entering a flat spin from which he cannot recover, forcing both Maverick and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned aircraft canopy, which breaks his neck, killing him.

Although the board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilty for Goose’s death, losing his aggressiveness when flying. Charlie and others attempt to console him, but Maverick considers leaving the Navy. Unsure of his future, he seeks Viper’s advice. Viper reveals that he served with Maverick’s father and discloses classified details over his last mission, explaining how Duke stayed in the fight after his Phantom was hit and saved three planes before he died. Information about the dogfight was classified to avoid revealing that the American planes were not where they should have been.

During the graduation party, Iceman, Hollywood, and Maverick are ordered to immediately report to the Enterprise to deal with a “crisis situation”, providing air support for the rescue of a stricken communications ship, the SS Layton, that has drifted into hostile waters. Maverick and Merlin are assigned to one of two F-14s as back-up for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite Iceman’s reservations over Maverick’s state of mind. In the subsequent hostile engagement with six MiGs, Hollywood is shot down but he and his RIO, Wolfman, manage to eject safely. Maverick is sortied alone due to catapult failure and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose’s death. Upon rejoining Iceman, they shoot down four MiGs and force the others to flee, and return to the Enterprise, where the two men, with newfound respect for each other, finally become friends. Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to Top Gun as an instructor, to which Stinger jokingly expresses horror. Later, he is seen tossing Goose’s dogtags into the ocean, suggesting that he is finally free of his guilt over Goose’s death.

Sitting alone in a restaurant in downtown San Diego, Maverick hears “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” playing on the jukebox and recalls meeting Charlie. She reveals that she is in the bar and the two reunite.

REVIEW:

Let’s take a trip back in time shall we. It’s the mid to late 80s and a father has just purchased a brand new VCR for is family. He then goes out to get a membership at a video rental place. Being a military man, of course he seeks out something somewhat military themed. What was that film, you may ask? Well, it was Top Gun. Yes, the first film my family watched in our VCR was Top Gun (followed by Do the Right Thing and something my sister was dying to see). Amazingly, after all these years, I found that I still have a grand fondness for this picture.

What is this about?

Tom Cruise stars as a hotshot flyboy who struggles to control himself, responsibility and a steamy love affair while competing at the U.S. Navy’s fighter-weapons school, better known as Top Gun. Anthony Edwards plays his loyal co-pilot.

What did I like?

Flight. Say what you will about Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, it is the planes and the flying scenes that are the real stars of this film. I remember watching this as a kid and wanting to be a pilot. Of course, a crippling fear of heights and flying kept that dream from coming true, but I still love watching airshows and dogfights in the air. Perhaps that is why I am one of the few that really enjoyed Red Tails.

Brothers. The camaraderie between Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards’ characters is very tight, but considering how they’re in a confined space and need to literally be able to trust each other with their lives, it makes sense. I really appreciated how we got to learn more and more about these guys and their relationship as the film progresses, culminating in one of those “calm before the storm” scenarios, as I like to call them, where everything is perfect and then something goes horribly wrong. That thing that went wrong was the death of “Goose”. Perhaps the singular most powerful scene in the whole film, his death left a void that the audience never recovers from, due to its tragic nature.

Keep going. The acting here isn’t that great to be honest, but that’s in comparison to what these actors have gone on to become big stars, especially Cruise. I wonder if they all watch this at some point and see how young, rough around the edges, and skinny they all were.

What didn’t I like?

Volleyball. Alright, I’ll admit the volleyball scene wasn’t meant for my sex. That was eye candy all for the ladies. Even the song that is playing, Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys”, seems to be aimed at the female species. I don’t fault the film for that, and I know that had those been girls out there, they would have had my undivided attention. Having said that, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, especially the slow motion that they put it through and the random flexing that “Slider” was doing.

Daddy issues. What is it with Tom Cruise and playing these roles where he has a well known military dad that has mysteriously disappeared. If I’m not mistaken, that was the case with A Few Good Men. At any rate, his dad is mentioned twice, but only once do we know that he has mysterious circumstances surrounding his disappearance. It is more than obvious that this drives “Maverick”, but it isn’t really touched on. I would have liked to see something more done with that, since they made a point to bring it up a few times.

Propaganda. As I mentioned earlier, this film made me want to fly a plane. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one, as military enrollment spiked after its release. I’m not a fan of using movies to camouflage recruiting, which is what I feel this was in a way, but I can respect it for coincidentally gaining some recruits. At least there was a real film and not some half-ass reality program like Act of Valor.

The 80s brought us some really good films, huh? Some are so good that the first few notes of a song from the soundtrack will get us going. Admit it, every time you hear “Danger Zone”, you think of Top Gun. This is a film that is really well made, but may not be as good as you remember. Some flaws that I found in this recent viewing, weren’t there when I was a little kid. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself and very highly recommend this as a film you must see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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2 Responses to “Top Gun”

  1. Mystery Man Says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Movie Fiend's Movie Blog.

  2. […] you see him get thrashed about by the waves and eventually starts to drown. Thank goodness for the Top Gun type jets (actually voiced by a couple of guys from the film, Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards). What […]

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