Top Gun

Directed By: Tony Scott

Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, Meg Ryan, Rick Rossovich, Whip Hubley, and James Tolkan

Last year, we lost a fine director by the name of Tony Scott.  With films like Enemy of the State, Crimson Tide, and Man on Fire to his name, it's time we revisit some of his films.  With Top Gun being recently re-released to theaters in IMAX 3D, there's no time like the present to cover it.  This quintessential 80's flick introduces us to the art of aerial combat in a grand way.  While not Scott's best film, it's definitely one that has remained popular over the years.  Everybody loves Maverick and Goose.

Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is an aviator in the US Navy.  With his radar intercept officer Lieutenant Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), Maverick flies right into the danger zone.  While flying alongside talented wingman Cougar (John Stockwell), Maverick engages some MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean.  One of the MiGs gets a missile lock on Cougar, and he loses his edge in midair.  The MiG was not there to fight though and does not take the shot.  After Maverick recklessly helps him to land back on the Enterprise, Cougar turns in his wings.  He’s done with flying.  With the best aviator on the ship now gone, Enterprise Commander Stinger (James Tolkan) is left with no choice but to send Maverick and Goose to Top Gun, the nation's best fighter weapons school.

Because hotshot Maverick sees himself as the best naval aviator out there, he plans to make a name for himself at Top Gun.  It's needless to say that many of his fellow students and instructors don't quite see things his way.  Iceman (Val Kilmer), one of the other students, is one of them.  Jester (Michael Ironside), a Top Gun instructor, respects Mavericks's ability but thinks he's unsafe in the air.  Viper (Tom Skeritt), chief instructor of the program, likes Maverick's arrogance, but he makes it abundantly clear that Maverick’s reckless flying will not be tolerated.  Ultimately, Maverick’s ego gets knocked down a peg or two at Top Gun.  To make things even more interesting, Maverick unknowingly serenades one of the program instructors one night at the bar, a beautiful contractor by the name of Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis).

Top Gun is one of the most memorable films of the 80's.  It might be the simple reality that movies about pilots in the armed forces are rarely made nowadays.  It might be the dogfighting (aerial combat) gloriously captured on screen.  It might even be the awesome code names of our naval aviators.  Clearly, Tony Scott's aviation movie has a lot going for it.  However, there is a flip side to that coin.  Top Gun is a little dated, and that's abundantly clear throughout the movie.  Scott's usage of an incredible soundtrack is questionable at best as he repeatedly uses "Danger Zone" during every pivotal moment of the film.

Aviation movies were more frequently produced back in the 40's, 50's and 60's.  They're much rarer nowadays, and Top Gun stands as arguably the most memorable aviation flick in modern cinema.  One reason for that is that Tony Scott gives flying a majestic feel.  He takes time to make it feel like something larger than life.  For instance, the epic takeoffs and landings on the runway at the movie’s opening are filmed to look breathtaking.  Another reason is that he tackles the art of dogfighting in grand style.  Scott skillfully depicts the nature of aerial combat and manages to build tense, gripping scenes whether showing actual battles or just training exercises.

There are plenty of fun characters in Top Gun.  A young Tom Cruise gives us the cocky hotshot Maverick.  While his height is certainly a problem in the cockpit, Cruise delivers the goods with a charming performance that foreshadows his unforgettable career.  Anthony Edwards offers a lovable sidekick to Maverick as radar interceptor Goose.  Kelly McGillis brings a playful, flirtatious energy to the film as Maverick's romantic interest Charlie.  Val Kilmer perfectly embodies the moniker the Iceman as Maverick's main rival.  Finally, Tom Skeritt is just one cool dude as Viper, Top Gun's chief instructor.

Top Gun is a good movie, but it's not a problem-free one.  It's a film that says 80's in the cheesiest of ways.  When thinking of bad ways that this film says 80's, the epic volleyball game is what first comes to mind.  Another that comes to mind is that Tony Scott repeatedly opts to use the song "Danger Zone" in every key scene.  Scott has a great soundtrack at his disposal (one of the most popular of all time) and spends entirely too much time shoving a single track down our throats.  I like the song.  It's decent 80's rock.  However, it starts to get old after being recycled a half dozen times in the movie.  It becomes an irritating reminder of the decade in which this film was made. 

While I always appreciate a healthy dose of Maverick, Goose, and Iceman, I have to give Top Gun a strong 0.06% rating.  Top Gun is a solid action drama, but it has its flaws.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.