The ideals of American patriotism have only been captured correctly in two movies so far. One is Commando, which was a gutsy 80s action blast, taking a slice out of the idyllic suburban father and daughter lifestyle, but cramming it full of explosions, cheesy one liners and an over the top performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger. A truly great movie. The only other movie to capture similar values, is Top Gun. Jet setting, Kenny Loggins loving, Tom Cruise with a twinkle in his eye, macho bullshit.
Not that Top Gun is a bad movie though, it’s fine. It resembles a time period where riding a motorbike and wearing a leather jacket and playing volleyball was deemed irresponsibly cool. When you could pull in a bar by making them suffer through a group karaoke ordeal. A time when Tom Skerritt could act. The 80s were great, and patriotism, while I don’t like it, is the prime reason Top Gun works. But for an outsider, Top Gun has to rely on plot, props and performance alone, especially since its worldview of America being the heroes of peace isn’t exactly the right message.
Cruise stars as Maverick, a fighter pilot who, alongside Goose (Anthony Edwards) who are inducted into Top Gun, a pilot school that teaches the best of the best. There, Maverick falls for Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) and feuds with Iceman (Val Kilmer). Imagine basically every trope of the 1980s crushed into one movie, and that’s exactly what Top Gun is. If done correctly, the results can be interesting, but Top Gun doesn’t quite reach its full potential. A shame since if it did, I presume this would’ve been an unabashed thrill ride that relies on high octane action coupled with a stellar soundtrack.
You have the abandonment issues of the main character, which are filled somewhat by the strict but warm captain, in this instance played by Tom Skerritt. You’ve got the expected “will they, won’t they?” romance between McGillis and Cruise. Mix in some of the most forthright 80s music and there you have it, a film that captures the foundation level ideals of America in the 1980s. At least the performances are bearable, with the rivalry between Cruise and Kilmer reaching new heights for the two (at the time) young actors. Unfortunately, there’s no real resolution, just a cop out a couple minutes before the credit’s role.
For fans of the action genre and Tom Cruise, Top Gun is a sure fire hit that’ll leave you tapping your foot along to an arguably overused setlist of Kenny Loggins tunes. A truly forgettable story limits the film from reaching the expected heights I thought it’d go to, but it’s no matter when you’ve got a cocky Cruise performance coupled with a strong Kilmer supporting role. Solid enough to watch, but not good enough to revisit.