Launching Tom Cruise into Hollywood stardom and having state of the art visual effects for its time, Top Gun finds itself to be an entertaining viewing experience even if there is no substance to its narrative.
Top Gun follows fighter pilot Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell as he participates in the Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School program while fighting for the affection of his flight instructor, Charlotte Blackwood.
There are many aspects of Top Gun that I can feel genuine enjoyment and appreciation for but it lacks a sense of direction, prohibiting any immersion to the characters or the story it is telling. Sporting a classically simple runtime of 109 minutes, I found myself wondering where any of this was going for over half of that. The film spends its first hour having scenes play out with a true narrative focal point, no clear direction for the audience to latch themselves on to. It started to feel like an extremely long music video before establishing its conflict. A key component to compelling storytelling is that it must have an obstacle for the characters, this allows the audience to intellectually connect with the film. Its characters are thinly written as there is barely an explorative component to any screenplay facet; I struggle to know how 60 minutes was spent. That’s not to say there is no entertainment value in the film – it is actually one of its strongest components. Watching the repartee between hotshot macho flyboys in between riveting naval dogfights can be enjoyable, even if it isn’t stimulating. Now this is one of Tom Cruise’s earliest roles and was certainly his biggest one at the time but you definitely get that sense of inexperience as an actor. There is a particular lack of poise and bravado to Cruise and ultimately, he can’t command the screen in the way he does today. It certainly shows his growth as an actor.
The 1980’s vibes are on full display from the opening sequence in this film; from its bouncy and cheesy soundtrack to the dizzying and oversaturated photography. The editing of the aerial combat sequences are crisp and intricately woven together while supported by extremely impressive cinematography. The soundtrack is incredible and it is iconic for a reason, but having the Top Gun Anthem or Danger Zone pieces blast in the background every 5 minute becomes irritating quite quickly.
Top Gun definitely possesses all the elements of a fun 1980’s action film but fundamental flaws keep it from being a good movie. It’s tough to hate it though, it gave us Tom Cruise.
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