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Top Gun: Maverick with Tom Cruise blockbuster Lynn News review

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REVIEW: Top Gun: Maverick (12A)

Tom Cruise either plays cocky or intense (or both: "Show me the money!" in Jerry Maguire).

He has got every reason to feel cocky with Top Gun: Maverick. At last – a tentpole movie that delivers!

Top Gun: Maverick.
Top Gun: Maverick.

Summer blockbusters have had a rocky recent ride: just ask the Star Wars and Jurassic Park franchises. Demonstrating the law of diminishing returns, the latest dinosaur offering Jurassic World Dominion has had a critical monstering.

The recent Star Wars trilogy seemed to deliberately antagonise old-school fans with their treatment of dearly loved and dearly departed (yes, spoilers, but if you haven't seen them by now, you never will) characters Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.

The latest Terminator was widely regarded as terrible... and so on. Cruise must've been acutely aware of this when reviving, after 36 years, his beloved role of Navy hot-shot pilot, 'Maverick' Mitchell in this sequel.

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick.
Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick.

And given its release was much-delayed due to Covid, you could be forgiven for fearing the worst. Big sigh of relief: it's OK.

Quick plot recap: veteran elite combat aviator (or 'top gun') Capt. Maverick after his latest in a long line of authority-baiting feats is slung off a testing programme by 'Rear Admiral MacGuffin' (Ed Harris in a cameo) and winds up being given a last-gasp career-capping assignment by a comrade from the first iconic 1980s action film, Lt. Tom 'Iceman' Kazansky (Val Kilmer), now one of the top brass.

Maverick is handed over to reluctant superior officer Vice Admiral Beau 'Cyclone' Simpson (Jon Hamm) to lead a bunch of elite pilots – all with their own nicknames – on a, er, mission impossible bombing run on a seemingly-impregnable 'enemy' installation.

Top Gun: Maverick. As you can see, the film was due to be released two years ago.
Top Gun: Maverick. As you can see, the film was due to be released two years ago.

These include alpha-male Hangman (Glen Powell, who's a dead-ringer for King's Lynn Stars speedway skipper Josh Pickering) and Bradley 'Rooster' Bradshaw (Miles Teller) who unfortunately for Cruise's character is the son of Nick 'Goose' Bradshaw, Maverick's buddy who was killed in the original film when both ejected from their F-14 plane.

Boy, Rooster bears a grudge, as you can guess who he blames for his dad's death.

Other elements from Maverick's past appear including former girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) who now runs a successful bar.

The plot and tropes are predictable: we have the tooling-up montage, the team-bonding session after a clash of egos, the last-gasp heroics; and it gets a bit Officer and a Gentleman and Star Wars/Death Star in places.

But the performances are good, the action is thrilling and genuine with minimal use of CGI, and there are no needless identity politics shoehorned-in. For example, there are strong female characters but not at the expense of diminishing every male character.

Since 2015 Kilmer has privately struggled with throat cancer and this aspect is accommodated into his character.

Older fans will love the flashbacks and references; new or casual fans will enjoy a rollicking blockbuster that ticks all the boxes. Not five stars-good, but good all the same.

Oh, and Maverick's first name is Pete, so overall it can't be bad.

Peter Woodhouse

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