"Top Gun: Maverick" Soars to Large-Format Heights, and Never Falls
What a thrill.
Why is the sight of Tom Cruise nearly losing consciousness during a stealth fighter speed test so accepted? Despite all of the military access that his latest venture and new legacy sequel Top Gun: Maverick was privy to, this opening scene was likely the more unbelievable stunt scenario. The production conceieved that mission, right? Maybe wink-wink from the Navy as to its secret programs, but I doubt now that Cruise was really in a flying and fully operational super jet.
Now, mind you. During the sequence, it was completely accepted as gospel.
Many things are understood from this Joesph Kosinski/Tom Cruise pairing, the best of which is Cruise’s role as a thrill picture-maker. Like when silent comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd worked with gag writers to construct and plan out funny and exciting stunts, Cruise does so too - not for comedic purposes, but joyful ones. The man, his director, and his team all choreographed and established routines for himself and his actors to roll through while filming such amazing images of jet fighters in practice and in combat. Real pilots behind real actors in front of reel cameras at top speed conditions. What insurance company would sign off on this?
Top Gun: Maverick would’ve been amazing in a three-screen (triptych) or Cinerama-style presentation but, as it is with IMAX, it’s a knockout anyway. Large-format always trumps 3-D for me, and Cruise and crew exploit the largest canvas possible - the sky. My hands were embedded into my armrests too many times to count, hanging on in exasperation. Spectacular spectacle, with chills and thrills running throughout the body whole. Crying on cue is just part of the ride.
Writing of which, is this a manipulative roller-coaster or a high-profile dramatic actioner? Maybe it’s both. Martin Scorsese commented some time ago that Marvel films weren’t real cinema or cinema at all. The divide is here, but what of a bridge? Is Top Gun: Maverick that connection between a soap opera story and all that theaters can offer? Maybe. Has this been settled? As Tom Cruise’s Maverick says in the film, “Not today.”
The story itself, about Maverick’s regrets, guilts, and potential grace from it all, is pretty touching. Almost Rocky-level touching. His one scene with Val Kilmer, who speaks through computer text and stares, is solid and jarring. Both men unite together and console one another with such positive emotional stakes, reminding me that any kind of tale can be compelling and relatable, even when dealing with the best of the best with little to prove. There’s always something to prove.
Some critics have assessed Maverick as in the mold of Tony Scott, the late director of the original film. While it does open with a tribute to his style and the 80s-era feel, Maverick moves thoroughly to a contemporary feel by the middle and to the finish. It’s a progression on what Scott made, not a reproduction. For a more accurate Tony Scott tone in a 2022 movie, see Ambulance.
Go big and go loud. That’s the key here. Top Gun: Maverick (or TG:M) is easy on the mind, heavy on the heart, and extraordinary on the eyes. It’s really the perfect kind of summertime film. It’s really the perfect escape from our day-to-day nightmares. For those few hours, there’s no doubt as to cinema’s glory. 5/5
Top Gun: Maverick is now playing everywhere. See it large. See it loud.
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One More Thing: Notes on One Road to Quartzsite
MAGA flags. Confederate symbols. Dirt. This is part of the life in One Road to Quartzsite. Documenting the misfits and denizens of Quartzsite, AZ, One Road forms a loose narrative around a group of very real - almost too real - individuals and collectives, all just trying to get by in America. Made almost as if Harmony Korine’s Gummo were a blueprint (but not quite a manifesto), this documentary couldn’t be more tired and cheery if it tried. The kids, the campers, the elderly citizens, and the homeless young adults of the community are bonded by exhaustion and hope - exhaustion for what was before and what may be later, hope that what’s next will be great.
It’s a film of deserted refrigerators and camcorder diaries. Of precocious adventures and genuine solitudes. Of oddballs and mistakes.
And yet, it’s all very worn out.
One Road has one gear, and it’s awfully free-flowing. Not awful, just… a lot. The people captured - like rock collectors and nudist booksellers - are all unique and all hiding something special behind their rough and Trump-y appearances which, of course, are expressed as deceiving. Maybe deceiving on purpose? To not draw much attention? To just be left alone? Who knows, but it’s difficult to blend in when you stick out too much.
The film never gets out of this gear, and never really expands or probes; it’s just here for the scenery, it seems. And the scenery is ugly and beautiful all the same, sure. One Road rarely shows itself talking or engaging directly with its personalities, settling to just follow and observe safely. Too safely?
Birds go tweet, what else have you got? The birds are pretty though, so what else does one need? One Road to Quartzsite sought and found some peculiar people wanting to get by and be left to their own. That’s it. That’s it? Yep.
That’s ok, but oh what else could’ve been told with such individuals. For its effort, the film is fine, if too familiar around so much individuality.
We all want what’s best.
One Road to Quartzsite is coming soon to on-demand.