The new film, less of a sequel than a renovation, infuses the 1986 drama of airborne combat with today’s politics.

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In the new film, Maverick, played by Tom Cruise, succeeds solely by giving in to his emotions, by expressly not controlling them.Photograph courtesy Paramount Pictures
When Ronald Reagan was elected President, in 1980, it seemed only slightly more absurd than if Ronald McDonald had won. Both were entertainers, but the burger clown knew it, whereas Reagan believed the nostalgic và noxious verities of the movies that he had appeared in—and as a politician he attempted to lớn force modern American life to lớn conform to them. Thus “Top Gun,” which I saw when it came out, in 1986, felt lượt thích the cultural nadir of a time that was itself something of a nadir. As a film of cheaply rousing drama và jingoistic nonsense, “Top Gun” played lượt thích feedback—a shrill distillation of the very world view that it reproduced. Little did we know that there was another, less accomplished yet more bilious entertainer waiting in the wings to wreak even more grievous damage, more than three decades later, on the polity and the national psyche.

No less than the original “Top Gun,” its new sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” directed by Joseph Kosinski, is an emblem of its benighted political times. That’s why, in comparison with the sequel, the original comes off as a work of warmhearted humanism. Yet, paradoxically, & disturbingly, “Maverick” is also a more satisfying drama, a more accomplished action film—I enjoyed it more, yet its dosed-out, juiced-up pleasures reveal something terrifying about the implications & the effects of its narrative efficiency.

“Maverick” is less a sequel khổng lồ “Top Gun” than a renovation of it. The framework of the story is borrowed from the original, nearly scene for scene; drastic changes, while updating it for the present time, leave it recognizable still. In the new film, Tom Cruise returns as Lieutenant Pete Mitchell, whose call sign is Maverick. Now he’s a thử nghiệm pilot at an isolated post in the Mojave Desert, where the project he’s working on—the development of a new airplane—is about khổng lồ be cancelled in favor of drones, on the pretext of a performance standard that can’t be met. So Maverick, defying an admiral’s order, takes the plane airborne and, against all odds và at grave personal danger, pushes it past Mach 10 (which, for the record, is more than seven thousand miles per hour), thus temporarily saving the project but also risking court martial. Instead, Maverick is sent back to lớn Fighter Weapons School, a.k.a., đứng top Gun—of which he is, of course, a graduate—in San Diego, summoned by the academy’s commanding officer, Admiral Tom (Iceman) Kazansky, his classmate & respected rival in the first film (again played by Val Kilmer). Maverick’s assignment is lớn train a dozen young ace pilots for a top-secret and crucial mission, to fly into a mountainous region in an unnamed “rogue” state and destroy a subterranean uranium-enrichment plant.

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Yet soon another admiral, Beau (Cyclone) Simpson, played by Jon Hamm, sidelines Maverick & changes the mission’s parameters. In response, Maverick steals another plane & undertakes another unauthorized & dangerous flight, thereby justifying his own set of parameters to lớn Cyclone—who orders him back khổng lồ lead the younger flyers. Yet Maverick has history with one of those flyers, Lieutenant Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), gọi sign Rooster, whose late father, Nick (Goose) Bradshaw, played by Anthony Edwards, was Maverick’s wingman in the original “Top Gun” và died saving Maverick’s life. There’s more to that history (spoiler), but the dramatic point is that Maverick has khổng lồ overcome both the distrust và the enmity of one of the best pilots he’s training—for the sake of the mission, the unit’s esprit de corps, Rooster’s peace of mind, và his own sense of responsibility for a fatherless young man for whom he assumed paternal responsibilities.

There’s also a romance, perhaps the most perfunctory one this side of a children’s movie. Lượt thích the one in the original “Top Gun,” it is centered on a bar. This time, Maverick re-meets cute a former lover named Penny (Jennifer Connelly), the owner of the bar where the pilots all hang out. (In the original “Top Gun,” there’s mention of a woman named Penny as one of Maverick’s lãng mạn partners, but the hint goes undeveloped.) What it takes for them lớn get back together is a kind of barroom hazing that costs Maverick money and dignity, plus a jaunt on her sailboat where she literally teaches him the ropes. (As lớn what happened between him and Charlie, his instructor and lover in the first film, played by Kelly McGillis, the new film says not a word.) Their relationship is the hollow vi xử lý core around which the movie is modelled, and its emptiness comes off not as accidental or oblivious but as the self-conscious dramatic strategy of the director và the film’s group of screenwriters.

The first ten minutes of “Top Gun”—showing the midair freakout of a pilot called Cougar (John Stockwell)—contain more real emotion than the entire running time of the sequel, and therein lie the key differences between the two films. The powerful feelings, troubled circumstances, và unsettling ambiguities in the original posed dramatic challenges that its director, Tony Scott, & its screenwriters never met. Their film thrusted a handful of significant complexities onto the screen but never explored or resolved them. It wasn’t only Cougar who fell apart in “Top Gun.” Maverick himself, racked with guilt over Goose’s death, first attempted lớn quit the Navy & then, returning to combat duty, froze up in midair. Of course, Maverick quickly got over it (thanks to lớn Goose’s dog tags), và his suddenly resurgent heroic skills saved the day, brought the movie to a quick triumph, & aroused three decades of impatience for a sequel—but his vulnerability và fallibility at least made a daunting appearance.