In TOP GUN: MAVERICK, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) lives a life of military obscurity. But when an upcoming special mission requires his unique knowledge, Maverick is called back to TOPGUN as a teacher and mentor to the next generation of pilots. As the past meets the present, Maverick must overcome his deepest fears and pain while training these youthful rookies what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice. This week, Richard Crouse (host of CTV’s #PopLife) and Dave Voigt (In The Seats) step into the danger zone to talk about the magic of Tom Cruise, legacy sequels, and the inevitability of age.
Honestly, I have no idea how he does it.
Thirty years after Top Gun made Tom Cruise a household name, the character has been revived for one more mission. It may seem impossible, but somehow, Top Gun: Maverick is not only as good as the original film, it’s actually better.
In Top Gun: Maverick, Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Cruise) lives a life of military obscurity. Still holding the rank of captain after more than thirty years in the service, Maverick spends his days as a test pilot as he still feels that need for speed. But when an upcoming special mission requires his unique knowledge, Maverick is called back to TOPGUN as a teacher and mentor to the next generation of pilots. It’s here that he encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late co-pilot Lt. Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw. As the past meets the present, Maverick must overcome his deepest fears and pain while training these youthful rookies what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice.
After 40 years in the business, Tom Cruise seems to be an ageless wonder. Even in his mid-50s, the man maintains a boyish enthusiasm that truly makes you believe that he can do anything. In fact, he may even be the last of a dying breed of movie star. Known for the death-defying risks that he’s willing to take, the actor has continued to set the standard for action films.
But, of course, one has to wonder how long he can keep this up? While Cruise has given no indication of slowing down, no man lives forever. Eventually, age catches up with us all, right? Maverick acknowledges this certainty but still wants us to know that he’s going to make the use of every onscreen moment. For instance, there’s a moment early on in the film where Maverick faces off with a superior officer about his antics. “The end is inevitable, Maverick. Your kind is headed for extinction.” he growls. Turning back to the camera, Cruise glares with self-awareness and retorts, “Maybe so, sir. But not today.”
For both Maverick and Cruise, the mission isn’t over… not yet…
Simply put, Top Gun: Maverick has some of the most stunning aerial effects ever put on screen. Featuring unbelievable stunts and gravity-defying maneuvers, Maverick makes the viewer’s jaw drop from start to finish. This is not a film which attempts to trick the viewer into believing some CGI trickery. Instead, Cruise demanded that these stunts be authentic and amazing. (In fact, rumours persist that the film even shut down production for several months due to Cruise’s dissatisfaction with the film’s direction and his insistence that the cast be trained in the F-18s.)
He understood the assignment. This film needed to take your breath away.
In terms of the story, the film manages to find a balance between honouring the legacy of the original while continuing to move the story forward. Quite simply, this film is a throwback film with a modern edge. One of the great challenges of course is the film’s tone. Released in 1985, the original Top Gun is considered a classic but definitely feels as though it’s from another era. For instance, glistening volleyball games and a pre-dominantly white male cast would not be seen as modern takes on heroism. However, Maverick successfully maintains the action and sentimentality of the original while having a better sense of gender and racial inclusion. (Although, it’s worth noting that somehow the film also manages to substitute beach football for volleyball… and it works.)
At its heart, Maverick is a film about letting go and moving forward. Still haunted by Goose’s death, Maverick carries the events of his past like an open wound. He wants to move one but he simply has no idea how as he feels that more penance still must be endured for his role in what happened over thirty years ago. As a result, Maverick is determined to prevent the sorts of dangerous behaviour that defined his career from ruining the lives of the next generation. (This even includes his apprehension about allowing Goose’s son to step into the danger zone on his own.)
Even so, Maverick also recognizes that good character and a humble heart may be able to restore the relationships that have been broken by the past. Although he still has the rebelliousness of heart, there’s a humility to this version Maverick that he has gained with experience. Older and wiser, this old dog still has some new tricks that he wants to teach… so long as the next generation are willing to listen.
So yes, Top Gun: Maverick is worth the price of admission. See it with friends on the biggest screen that you can and simply enjoy the moment. And, somehow, Cruise remains in a league of his own. There will become come a time when we he will not be able to offer us films of this nature. Age is simply something that even Tom Cruise cannot out run. But, in the case of Top Gun: Maverick, we still have something special to see.
So, while there will be a moment where Cruise must hang up his stunt gear, thankfully that time is not today.
Top Gun: Maverick is available in theatres on Friday, May 27th, 2022.
All of life has been reduced to the inhabitants of a 1001 car long train that continually circles the earth where the outside temperature is -119° C. In TNT’s new drama series Snowpiercer, that train becomes a microcosm for society. The series is based on the 2013 Bong Joon Ho film (Bong is one of the Executive Producers) and a series of graphic novels starting with La Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Jean-Marc Rochette, and Benjamin Lagrand. The stories of all these manifestations differ. What they all have in common is this train traveling through a post-apocalyptic frozen world. I’ve had a chance to watch the first five episodes of the first season. The series has already been renewed for a second season.
The TV series takes place seven years after the world was frozen by scientists seeking to end global warming. But it went terribly wrong. The prescient Mr. Wilfort designed and built this train to save some of the people—mostly the rich and those needed to take care of them.
As the series opens, seven years after the train set off, some of those in charge come to the Tail of the train, where the dregs of this society are housed, to find Andre Layton (Daveed Diggs), who is one of the leaders planning a revolt. He is also a former police detective. There has been a gruesome murder on the train. Although the regular order keepers (The Brakemen) on board don’t really trust anyone from the tail, they need his expertise. It is through the investigation of the murder that we discover this rolling world. And what we discover is a world that is full of the same injustices and inequalities of our own society.
There is a very rigid class structure on the train, which corresponds with the closeness to the front of the train. The engine is the realm of Mr. Wilfort, who is something of a benign god who is the supreme authority. With a touch of almost religious reverence, authority is sometimes said to come from “the eternal Engine”. People are told at one point that “the Engine will provide”. The engine’s decrees are mediated through Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly), a sort of high priestess of the “faith” of Wilfort. She is the day to day hands on ruler of the train. (Although, [minor spoiler] by the end of the first episode we discover that Mr. Wilfort is a convenient fiction.)
Just behind the engine is the First Class area, where the people who had money to invest in the train live in the luxury, entitlement, and privilege they are used to. Think of them as the 1%. Next comes Second Class, the middle-class, white collar section of the train. This is life akin to the suburbs—comfortable but not luxurious. Third Class is the blue collar section of the train. Here is where all the workers who keep things going are housed. It’s a harder life here. They survive, but live in cramped quarters.
At the very rear is The Tail. These are people who forced their way on to the train without tickets. The rest of the train considers them freeloaders. They live in utter squalor. They have no windows, no privacy, and no rights. They are fed some gelatinous protein bars. And they want something better. As Layton moves uptrain, it seems almost a Dantesque ascension from hell to paradise (with a few glimpses of purgatory).
Because the story is told in all parts of the train, the series becomes a multilayered narrative with an large ensemble cast. In addition to the two main actors, Connelly and Diggs, look for Alison Wright as Ruth, a stick-up-her-butt assistant to Melanie; Mickey Sumner as Bess Till, a young brakeman who slowly warms to Layton and begins to sees him as a mentor; and Annalise Basso as LJ Folger, a First Class teenager who, well, spoilers should be avoided, but keep an eye on her.
The murder mystery is solved after a few episodes, but it lays the groundwork for the story of class struggle that is bound to erupt. Certainly the Tailies are being pushed to the point of insurrection. Layton had hoped to see enough of the train that he would be able to pass word back to the tail to aid in that insurrection. When the investigation is finished, however, he knows too much to be allowed to return to the Tail.
For those running the train, order is of the highest importance. This is not a democracy. It is more like a theocracy (but remember we know that the seemingly divine Wilfort is not what everyone thinks). In the film, this desire for order took on an almost Calvinistic sense of predestination. It is less so in the TV series. Still everyone has their assigned role and place in this society. But everyone wants more. The Tailies want access to the rest of the train. Those in Third Class want a voice. Even those in First Class are dissatisfied and are looking for their own advancement.
The injustice inherent in these class distinctions is especially evident in the episodes I’ve screened. Justice is shown to be subjective. The train has been set up as a trickle-down society. Each level has not only less comfort, but less influence. But even the one percenters don’t have control. They are also looking to get more, even though it seems they have all they could want. I expect, as I continue on in the series, to see this class struggle take on more and more importance. This inequality was also evident in the film, but was more centered on the Tail. In the series, this dissatisfaction is spread throughout the train. The revolution that seems to be coming will not have a single source, but will likely come from many sides.
You may have noted various somewhat religious references throughout this review. While this is not an overtly religious series, there are definite spiritual undertones. However, much of what sounds religious is in fact a façade to provide authority to those uptrain to maintain the social order as they see fit. That is not unlike the way some in our society confuse social structure with religion. But just because semi-religious authority is improperly used, doesn’t mean that the spiritual nature of the series is only about the misuse of religion. There are spots, even early on, that we see the spiritual side of come of the characters. This becomes most evident when we discover The Night Car—ostensibly a brothel, but in reality it provides something much deeper. This is at base a humanistic spirituality. It is in the way people relate to one another that brings out their spiritual natures. And it is those natures that will be essential to the unfolding story.
Snowpiercer airs on TNT beginning on May 17th, 2020.
Photos courtesy of Warner Media.
Hey SF’ers! Trying something new so here goes:
- Marshall w/Chadwick Boseman & Josh Gad: They say that the opposite of the White Savior trope in film is the Magical Negro trope. Marshall clearly went full Magical Negro with Josh Gad’s character being the only lawyer allowed to try the case the film centers on. A more compelling movie would have been watching Marshall defy the sea of racist White venom and beat a case against the odds. Way too much focus on the Josh Gad subplot to me.
- BOO 2 was BAD, even by Madea/Tyler Perry standards. 20 minutes into it, I was half watching and half looking at my phone. (Calm down movie theatre police – I was at a drive-in!) No faith-filled or redeeming messages. Honestly…the thing felt like a lame live action episode of Scooby Doo. By the way, the audio overdubs that were supposed to drown out the cursing in this flick were HORRIBLE! All those hecks, darns and friggins tells me that the uncut unedited version would have gotten a hard R. I say to TP, don’t screw around with it next time. Let those F-bombs fly and let the church folks go up in arms! Most of the ones who’d protest are avid Scandal watchers anyway where Cursing: Bad and Adultery: Good.
- Shame Only The Brave didn’t find an audience. Very good telling of the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots with themes of brotherhood, sacrifice – both at home and in the fire path – and redemption. No Oscar prospects but this’ll find it’s proper audience in Redbox and streaming platforms.
- Glad to have celebrated my 45th bday on Saturday. I look and feel 35! But I’m thankful to God for my wife and kids, my ScreenFish family for enduring me & my love for movies!
Well, that’s it. Hopefully y’all will enjoy this. If so, there will be more to come! ✌🏿