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.
We’re feeling the need… to give tickets away!
Top Gun: Maverick will take your breath away… and we want to send you and a guest to see it before it’s released in theatres! Thanks to our friends at TARO PR, we’re giving away double passes to see Top Gun: Maverick in Toronto, Montreal (French and English), Edmonton, and Vancouver on Tuesday, May 24th, 2022!
Saturday, May 24th, 2022
Toronto – 7:00pm @ Cineplex Cinemas Yonge & Dundas
Vancouver – 7:00pm @ Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver
Montreal ENG – 7:00pm @ Cineplex Cinemas Forum IMAX
Montreal FRE – 7:00pm @ Cinémas Guzzo Méga-Plex Marché Central IMAX
Edmonton – 7:00pm @ Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton
Top Gun: Maverick takes place more than thirty years after the original film. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of TOP GUN graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.”
In order to enter, simply tell us your city, like/share this post on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram and tell us the name of Tom Cruise’s character!
Winners will receive a double pass to the pre-screening of Top Gun: Maverick on Tuesday, May 24th, 2022
All entries must be received by 11:59pm on Sunday, May 22nd, 2022.
The sixth installment of the Mission Impossible films, and the second directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie (Rogue Nation), arrived this weekend with a fat 98% Rotten Tomatoes ratings, the Justice League-impacting Henry Cavill mustache, and the promise of more death-defying stunts by the ageless Tom Cruise. But haven’t we seen it all, already?
Blame Lorne Balfe’s score, the Michelle Monaghan dreams, or the return of Solomon Lane, but this is not the same old thing you’ve seen before. This is the best M:I film to-date.
IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) teams with Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) to go after plutonium and The Apostles – the remaining members of the The Syndicate after Hunt arrested Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) previously. [One of the best parts of the film is that it seems to give the sidekicks more meaningful things to do than before – a throwback to the old show.] Complicating matters are Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) who might be the love that Hunt has been missing since he separated from his wife (Monaghan) to keep her safe, several movies ago. But things are complicated when the broker, White Widow (Jessica Kirby), demands that Hunt re-acquire Lane from the French government in exchange for missing plutonium.
The storyline is complex, thanks to the meddling of various governmental agencies (led by Alex Baldwin and Angela Bassett), and the presence of CIA watchdog/assassin August Walker (Cavill, who literally towers over Hunt). But the action is kept moving by the best motorcycle pursuit since The Great Escape and the best use of helicopters since Airwolf. [Seriously, I am not inclined to ‘best’ anything, but the film was that entertaining.] I could also point out that it’s as if McQuarrie watched Cliffhanger, Die Hard, the complete Sean Connery 007 collection, and Terminal Velocity while he was daydreaming about what to do to Ethan Hunt next, and stole the best looks of each to Frankenstein the highlight of the 2018 summer season.
And then there’s this: haunted by what he’s lost and what he could lose, Hunt’s emotional reverie about his (ex-) wife counts the cost of a one-man war against terrorism. But throughout the film, people keep seeing more or less the same thing: we all need Ethan Hunt because Hunt cares about the individual, the little person (no pun intended, Tom), the greater good never outweighing the life of the few. Sure, there’s one almost touching interaction with a French Genderarmie, but it’s more than that: Hunt’s morality never replaces his love of neighbor.
Having wrestled with this for the majority of the day, I have to say it: Mission Impossible – Fallout is more wildly entertaining than the sixth film in a chronological series should be and it dares to remind us that we can’t lose sight of the person next to us while in pursuit of the goal. We must remain empathetic, and compassionate, gentle and tender, even while fighting the world’s battles.
Ultimately, Fallout implores us all, to be more like Ethan Hunt.
Special features include commentary tracks by Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie, McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton, and composer Lorne Balfe. Audiences can also watch the film with score-only, enjoy the making of documentary, and unpack deleted scenes.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back in his fifth MI film, this time directed from a screenplay written by his collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (Edge of Tomorrow, Jack Reacher, just to name two). In a plot paralleling that of Spectre, Hunt and his posse find themselves up against an unbelievably knowledgeable super team of villains who the CIA doesn’t believe exists, putting pressure on the IMF team to prove not only the Syndicate’s existence but also their own reliability. But as we’ve come to expect from Cruise and his MI films, this one stands out in a field of spy flicks and high tech shenanigans. [Seriously, even the Furious series has moved into the high tech/stunt arena, foregoing simpler car chases and bombastic fistfights.]
The MI differ from the Bourne or Bond movies in two major ways. The first is that Hunt is not a lone wolf. While Cruise might be the face that sells the films, he’s joined by the goofy analyst Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the serious, by-the-book chief William Brandt (Jeremy Renner, he of the failed Bourne film), and the deep-throated Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames). These three represent the team approach from the classic television series and resemble more of a mirror to The A-Team than one of these lone spy flicks.
The second difference is the level of humor. While the Syndicate proves to be deadly serious immediately, and Cruise appears to risk life and limb riding on the outside of jets, the MI films still find a way (thanks often to Pegg) to lighten things up. Whether it’s the operatic manner in which Hunt lures Pegg into helping his clandestine and highly illegal mission to track down the Bone Doctor (Jens Hulten), or the banter that occurs in the midst of the team’s missions, there’s more than the average wit to spice this up. [Surprisingly enough, the special features focus on various elements of “Cruise” like “Cruise Control” and “Cruising Altitude” or some kind of vehicle stunt, rather than the humor. I might’ve gone with a twenty minute gag reel!]
While this wasn’t my standalone favorite MI film, it’s high points are worthy of re-watching. There’s the death-defying plane ride, of course, made much brighter by not seeing it over and over for a month prior to rewatching. There’s the beautiful water-entry sabotage scene toward the end of the flick that sets up some seriously tense moments. And there are the new entrants into the MI canon like Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) as an undercover agent with the Syndicate who adds the necessary feminine heroine to a testosterone-dominated film, and the comedic ‘villain’ in the person of Alec Baldwin’s CIA director Alan Hundley, the consummate politician.
But let’s be clear: this is an ode to Cruise, a middle-finger-extending caption to his stunts and spectacularly explosive career. It’s just as much about Cruise saying to the media and detractors, “I ain’t dead yet,” as it is about the IMF proving to the CIA that there’s still room in the world for this group of people with a specific set of deadly skills. Cruise has been about doing things his own way – from Scientology to the way he does stunts – and while I disagree with his religious position, I must begrudgingly admit that his films still dominate the screen. Just don’t ask us to agree on the baptismal imagery of that long, last dive.
In 2002, Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise teamed up to deliver Philip K. Dick’s science fiction short story to the big screen in a move that received critical acclaim. Personally, it’s one of my top ten sci-fi flicks of all time, balancing action, mystery, special effects, and spellbinding questions about what we would do if we knew the future. Ultimately, it’s a very direct question about omniscience.
In FOX’s new television show, the three precogs (humans with the capacity to know the future) have been relocated into witness protection and the crime-stopping program they were involved with has been shut down. Dash (Stark Sands) believes he should still use his powers for good, and reluctantly comes out of the shadows to team with Washington, D.C. detective Lara Vaga (Meagan Good) to stop crime. His twin brother, Arthur (Nick Zano), is reluctant to trust the government again, choosing to use his powers for his own gain; the boys’ adoptive older sister, Agatha (Laura Regan), remains a recluse.
Each episode looks to be self-contained, a bit like Person of Interest or Early Edition, with a gradually revealed mythos that is hinted at in a conversation between Agatha and Arthur at the end of the episode. This is intriguing, of course, because it wrestles with the future, even while the three precogs are not given a complete picture of what that future looks like. As the audience, we’re aware that knowing the future isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be (consider Cruise’s Captain John Anderson), but with knowledge of the future, there’s great responsibility. It’s also noteworthy that an ongoing theological debate includes a discussion of whether or not God being omniscient means that he causes everything to happen or he (more simply) knows what will happen. That cause and effect is in play in the show as well.
There’s also responsibility here, speaking as a fan, for the way FOX handles this. While I loved the film, I didn’t love the idea that it would be a show. Could they go somewhere with the material for a season and not water it down? Could they pull off the special effects without being cheesy? The premiere would imply that they can, but now we must wait and see what happens over the next few weeks.
I mean, none of us knows the future, right?
Minority Report airs on FOX at 9 p.m. on Mondays, but you can catch an encore of the premiere on Friday night.
Fast fact: Did you know that the Mission:Impossible film series is nearing its 20th birthday? The first film opened in 1996 and gave Tom Cruise an opportunity to channel his inner spy for moviegoers around the world. Now, nineteen years and four films later, he’s grown quite comfortable in his role as super agent Ethan Hunt. Over that time, there have been four different directors in the series (the last being Disney/Pixar’s Brad Bird in Ghost Protocol) but the premise of each film is the same: there’s a bad guy and Ethan has to help capture him (or her) with the help of his partners in the IMF and futuristic tech.
First, the good news: That formula doesn’t change in the most recent entry to the franchise, Rogue Nation. There’s a new director in town—Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher)—and he’s ready to unleash his vision of world espionage and subterfuge. Those two facts alone are enough to make Rogue Nation a must-see film but McQuarrie also adds a few additional elements that elevate it to summer blockbuster status.
In this episode, McQuarrie kicks off the film with what most directors would call their ‘money shot’—Ethan Hunt holding onto the side of an Airbus 400 as it takes off with a huge shipment of VX nerve gas (and yes, Cruise did the stunt himself). Mistakes have been made by IMF as of late, so CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin in his best role in ages) has the US Senate shut down the program and bring the agents home. There’s only one problem: Hunt is MIA, the victim of an unfortunate incident at a record store in London orchestrated by the creepy leader of the evil Syndicate, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). In fact, music is the theme of the next set piece as Hunt attempts to prevent the Chancellor of Austria from being assassinated at an opera. (Incidentally, the scene even features a bass flute being used for something other than playing music.) There, Hunt learns that he’s considered rogue and is being hunted by the CIA and the Syndicate . . . and maybe the lady who saved him earlier, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). The goal is to get his buddies in the dissolved IMF—Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Stickell (Ving Rhames)—on his side while attempting to stave off another potential assassination.
Of course, the M:I franchise is known for its tech and set pieces, and this episode does not disappoint. One of the most harrowing sequences is an underwater foray that will leave audiences breathless for a few minutes. But there’s also a white-knuckle motorcycle chase through the freeways of Morocco and a conclusion scene that will delight as well. Of course, there’s going to be a mask at some point—I’ll let you guess when it happens. It’s a good bit of fun and a fantastic way to spend a few hours in an air-conditioned theater.
As Agent Hunt, Cruise tackles his role with the usual verve you’ve come to expect from him. In this episode, he finds himself in a bunch of precarious situations yet shows the determination, leadership, and resourcefulness that will keep him alive for another day. However, Ferguson threatens to completely upstage him in her role as Ilsa, a disavowed agent whose talents and skills make her the strongest female lead in an action film since Charlize Theron in Mad Max:Fury Road. You wouldn’t want to mess with her—trust me. Pegg does a nice job as the techie Benji Dunn and provides some nice humor, while Renner’s character doesn’t really get going until the second half of the film.
One of the main themes of Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation is a simple question that many of us have a difficult time answering: Who can you trust? In a spy film, you know there’s going to be a good amount of double and triple crossing, and this is no exception to that rule. Ilsa makes herself out to be any of three different options, further compounding the difficulty Hunt and his team face. Does he accept her help, knowing that she may or may not take him out in a moment’s notice? Or does he take her out instead?
When it comes to faith, each person must make a similar decision as Hunt—will they trust God (who stays the same yesterday, today, and forever—see Hebrews 13:8) or the world? In this case, consistency is a great thing, and only God can provide that on a day-in, day-out basis. All the world can offer is a shaky hope of stability and peace that gets violated by the time the national news comes on (or you check your Facebook feed, whichever comes first).
In addition, there is a second theme worth discussing in the character of Ilsa. She seems to be conflicted about what she’s supposed to do—specifically, how to fulfill her role(s). As she spends more time with Ethan, that conflict increases and reveals itself in a meeting with Atlee (Simon McBurney) along the banks of the Thames River. She eventually has to make a decision that will affect her life going forward. This sounds eerily like a decision we all have to make at one time or another—what are we going to do with our lives? If not answered, we become paralyzed and sit idle as the world passes us by. But if we’re going to run the race, we should run it as to finish the race (see 1 Corinthians 9:24), not simply make it to the first water stop. God helps us in this area by providing situations, individuals, and the Bible to guide us in our individual decisions. It’s not easy—there are struggles involved. Still, our trust in God’s plan—and Jesus’ death and resurrection—will lead us to the finish line (Philippians 3:12-14). It brings all the questions and doubts of life into elements of faith and trust that make us what we need to be for the Lord—right here, right now. A person doesn’t need high-tech tools to make that happen.
That’s something Ethan Hunt and his IMF crew would be impressed with.
You can almost hear the theme song now.
With the release of this week’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, it’s time once again for Tom Cruise to jump back into the spotlight as larger-than-life action hero, Ethan Hunt, an agent in the IMF (Impossible Mission Federation… I know. IMF sounds much cooler.) Spanning almost two decades and five films, the franchise has become synonymous with over-the- top action sequences and adventure. Often (and correctly) viewed as the ‘American James Bond’, Hunt travels the globe defeating the forces of evil with high-tech gadgetry and Cruise’s wry smile. While not known for their intricate plots, the franchise has become defined by its death-defying stunt work, much of which was performed by Cruise himself.
Interestingly though, if you pull back the lens a little further, we soon discover that the journey of the M:I franchise also seems to mirror the career of Cruise himself. Over the nineteen years since the first film’s release, we have watched first-hand as Cruise’s public life and career have been emphasized almost as much as his films. This collision between personal and public sphere also creates an alternate reading of each film that I would suggest reveals the heart of the man himself.
Still not convinced?
When the first film was released in 1996, Cruise was literally Hollywood’s Golden Boy. Every film he released was a hit. His cocky smile and hard working attitude was a perfect fit for Brian DePalma’s smug, young IMF maverick. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Nowhere else in the franchise does Ethan (or Cruise) appear more brash and confident, even in the face of ‘impossible’ odds. While every film involves incredible stunts, Mission: Impossible reveals him as a young man with swagger and energy that isn’t found in other entries.
By M:I-2, Cruise’s career was still on an upswing. Coming off an Oscar nomination the year prior (Magnolia, 1999), we find him to be a man who is attempting to stretch himself as an actor. Bringing in the legendary John Woo as a director brought an Eastern flavor that allowed the franchise to set itself apart as well. Also, around this time, as his Ethan Hunt-type ‘superman’ character had started to become stale in our culture, this entry features a sense of self-awareness and parody within it. (Hunt is even described in the film as ‘grinning like an idiot every fifteen minutes’.) Cruise was now the man who didn’t have to take himself too seriously and continued to top the box office.
But things changed dramatically in 2005.
By the release of M:I-iii in Summer 2006, Cruise had not only married Katie Holmes but also fathered his first biological daughter. (He had adopted twice in his previous marriage.) In his personal life, Cruise wanted to be a family man… and, all of a sudden, so did Ethan Hunt, who’s character had taken a wife. Like Cruise himself, Hunt’s character suddenly yearned for something more important than the mission itself, making this entry arguably the most grounded of the franchise.
At the same time, however, Cruise’s career had taken a major downturn as well. After his legendary ‘couch-jumping’ incident on Oprah while proclaiming his love for Holmes, his fan base seemed less unanimous about his cultural importance. Add to this the bizarre rumors surrounding his involvement with Scientology and one could argue that Cruise had worn out his welcome. While a few movies of mixed reviews over the next few years kept him in the spotlight, he became better known for his personal life than his ability to drum up box office dollars. What’s more, this trend continued until the release of the fourth entry into the franchise – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
Released in Summer 2011, Ghost Protocol seemed like the sequel no one really wanted. With his career seemingly dead, there were rumors that Paramount wanted to continue the series without Cruise, bringing in Jeremy Renner to take up the mantle in future entries. Interestingly though, Protocol actually depicts Hunt in the same manner. As the film opens, Hunt lies ‘disavowed’ in a European prison, broken and forgotten by the IMF. Even Renner’s character seems suspicious of whether or not this ‘wild card’ still has what it takes to lead the team.
What surprised everyone the most though was the fact that the film was not only a hit at the box office, but a critical success as well. Like Hunt’s character, Cruise’s life was restored as a viable—and bankable—success.
To Hollywood, that meant he had value again.
Is that really fair? In a culture where value is determined based solely on achievement and cultural idolization, Cruise is an example of the ‘celebrity machine’. It’s a fairly simple equation: When you’ve proven that you can sell tickets, you matter. If not, you don’t. Value lies solely in achievement. As a Christian, I recognize that this is faulty logic. Whether or not I agree with his theological position or liked his last film, I recognize that Cruise has value to God simply because he was made in His image. Like all of us, he’s human. He both loves his family and makes poor choices.
While Ethan Hunt may seem invincible, Tom Cruise isn’t.
He, too, is a man on a journey where God wants to meet him and, I believe, he wants to meet God as well. His value lies beyond Oscar noms and couch-jumping. It lies in the heart of the God of the universe, whether he recognizes it or not.
It’s that back and forth journey of discovery that sometimes feels like the real impossible Mission.