Top Gun

This 80’s action film is inexplicably considered a classic. Sadly aside from some charming performances and distinct visual style the movie has next to nothing to offer.

The movie follows a hot shot fighter pilot, Maverick played by Tom Cruise, and his best buddy, Goose played by Anthony Edwards who enter an elite pilot school called Top Gun. At the school they encounter a mildly hostile by the book pilot called Iceman, played by Val Kilmer, and an attractive love interest for Maverick played by Kelly McGillis. Maverick’s disregard for the rules earns him some stern looks from the old guard.

As I’m thinking about this movie a big problem becomes clear, there are no consequences. Maverick engages in a series of dangerous and crazy stunts in the air but he’s never really in trouble. He gets a stern talking to then he’s back in the air. Iceman doesn’t like him, but their animosity never feels more than skin deep. Goose never challenges Maverick or threatens to leave him even after Maverick puts his life in danger. The whole movie feels so inconsequential that it passes right through me without making an impact.

What works in this movie? The performances. Tom Cruise spends the entire movie with a charming smirk and a boundless enthusiasm. He is fun to watch here. Val Kilmer has this million megawatt smile that is engaging. Kelly McGillis does her best to turn a trophy for Maverick to win into a real woman. The movie works best when Cruise, McGillis, and Edwards are just hanging out singing old rock n roll hits and being their charming selves.

Whenever they enter their planes my attention drifted. I yelled at my screen several times, “what is happening?” The flying sequences are so poorly shot that I never have any clear idea what is happening or why it’s happening. I can tell something dangerous is going on because the soundtrack tells me so, but I could not tell you why they were in danger if you paid me a million dollars. The action is incomprehensible. The geography of the flights is never established, so we can’t tell where they’re going or how close they are to each other and their goals. It feels like they just took documentary footage of jets and inserted shots of Tom Cruise in between. It’s terrible.

The movie has a legendary soundtrack that is pretty cool. Everyone looks great especially in the well known beach volleyball sequence. But that’s kind of the problem. The movie stops occasionally to turn into a music video for Danger Zone and Take My Breath Away. These are sequences that contribute nothing to the story. They are just a sparkly distraction that looks good.

Maybe that’s why people liked this movie. It is fluffy and light. It is sparkly and distracting. It makes no impact on the viewer. It just looks pretty and doesn’t challenge anyone. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you can find worse distractions. Personally I found it to be a fast paced good looking nothing of a movie. It’s not terrible, but it’s undeserving of its place in pop culture history.

It’s not my cup of tea. C

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