“Top Gun: Maverick”
Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10)
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess to backtracking on a statement I made on social media when this film was first released. At that time, I had said I wouldn’t see this movie because I believed it to be little more than a veiled recruiting vehicle for the US military and that it was something I couldn’t support. However, awards season accolades for this offering backed me into a corner, essentially forcing me into having to see it to remain informed and credible about the unfolding of these events, so I reluctantly relented. Unfortunately, after having watched it, my initial assessment was borne out. This overblown, testosterone-dripping, clichéd, corny, predictable 2+-hour ad for the US Navy lived up to all of my expectations. This tale of an aging fighter ace-turned-test pilot (Tom Cruise) who’s tapped to train a team of young flyers for a virtually impossible bombing run to take out a plutonium enrichment plant in Iran (no enemy stereotyping here, ahem) follows a formulaic script with trite dialogue and plenty of sly macho winks and nods. To its credit, the film features superb aerial camera work and editing, making for a number of visually thrilling dogfight sequences (a major “cool, dude” aspect of the picture’s underlying military marketing intentions), and it manages to slip in a few “sensitive male” story threads to show that modern-day enlisted men can be at least superficially politically correct (a changing-of-the-times narrative adjustment from the film’s original). But, even with these admirable attributes, I genuinely fail to understand how so many critics and viewers don’t see what’s really going on here. To say that director Joseph Kosinski’s latest is truly worthy of the honors it has received thus far – such as a Golden Globe nomination for best dramatic film and the National Board of Review’s award for the year’s best picture – is clearly an overreach, especially in terms of what it’s really all about to begin with. In my view, it’s yet another example of the decline of the American movie industry and how willing audiences are to settle for it.