Top Gun: Maverick

Starring Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Monica Barbaro, and Val Kilmer

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Rating: ** ½

There is a plethora of good looking people in the Top Gun sequel, which comes to us 36 years late. Just why the brains behind this aerial adventure saga with a sweep and a swipe, waited so long to return, is anyone’s guess. I am just happy to see Tom Cruise back doing those daring aerial stunts that made him famous in the first place. The question is, does he need more of the same? Do we need it?

But return it does. I must confess the follow up to the 1986 smash-hit which catapulted Tom Cruise to instant and everlasting stardom, left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand I am delighted to see Tom cruise through the role of the never-say-dye(and I do mean, dye) test pilot who just wants to keep flying, ambitions and promotions be damned.

There is a very elegant barroom sequence at the outset where Cruise’s Captain Pete Mitchell meets up with old flame Penny(Jennifer Connelly).Sparks fly, but somehow the relationship doesn’t get the space to breathe. It’s just about two ex-lovers throwing loaded lines at one another.

The narrative keeps taking off into the sky at every given excuse while we can see the screenwriters (Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie) struggling to give the proceedings an intimate impetus by building on the humane aspect. To some extent the past is raked up with elegance and authority.

When Pete Mitchell meets a bunch of fresh-faced impossibly good looking trainees, one of them, Bradley(played with charm and sensitivity by Miles Teller) turns out to be his ex-combat-buddy’s son. Bradley hates Mitchell for putting his career behind. Bradley’s , I mean. Although Mitchell has done some the same to his own career too. Mitchell’s reason for holding back Bradley’s career is blurted out to Penny in a bedroom sequence that is so chaste it is heartbreaking. The confession after the prim intimacy seems more a Church than a bedroom thing.

The film for all its feast of physical beauty ,feels strangely sterile and emptied out. There is no real passion in the plot. The characters remain in-character ,not shifting an inch from their intended positioning. Jon Hamm as Cruise’s stiff-lipped senior plays the ‘coconut’ pitch: hard on the top, soft when it comes to letting Mitchell do all the dangerous forbidden aerial acrobats that make him the king of the sky.

What ails this not-unwelcome sequel is its inability to make a clean break from the past. It wants to break free , and yet at the same time it wants that whiff of nostalgia for the original Top Gun film to pervade the plot. The gambit of going forward while holding on to the past, works only to an extent. After a point the tug ‘o’ war between nostalgia and currency becomes an exercise in self-indulgence.

Speaking of nostalgia I hoped and prayed that the anthemic love song ‘You Take My Breath Away’ from the original Top Gun film will show up somewhere. No such luck. There is love, but not enough to merit that level of recalled passion.