Title: Top Gun
Tom Cruise as LT Pete "Maverick" Mitchell
Kelly McGillis as Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood
Val Kilmer as LT Tom "Iceman" Kazansky
Anthony Edwards as LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw
Tom Skerritt as CDR Mike "Viper" Metcalf
Michael Ironside as LCDR Rick "Jester" Heatherly
John Stockwell as LT Bill "Cougar" Cortell
Barry Tubb as LTJG Leonard "Wolfman" Wolfe
Rick Rossovich as LTJG Ron "Slider" Kerner
Tim Robbins as LTJG Samuel "Merlin" Wills
Clarence Gilyard, Jr. as LTJG Marcus "Sundown" Williams
Whip Hubley as LT Rick "Hollywood" Neven
James Tolkan as CDR Tom "Stinger" Jordan
Meg Ryan as Carole Bradshaw
Adrian Pasdar as LT Charles "Chipper" Piper
Duke Stroud as Air Boss CDR Johnson
Linda Rae Jurgens as Mary Metcalf
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Directed by: Tony Scott
Country: United States
Genre: Action/Aerial Combat/Drama
Year of Release: 1986
Synopsis: United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete Mitchell (Maverick) flies an F-14 Tomcat off USS Enterprise (CVN-65), with Nick Bradshaw (Goose) as his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). Maverick and his wingman "Cougar" intercept (fictional) MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean. During the standoff, one of the MiGs manages to get a missile lock on Cougar. Maverick realizes that the MiG is only trying to intimidate Cougar and drives it off, but Cougar is too panic stricken to land. Maverick defies orders and guides Cougar back to the carrier as both air crafts run dangerously low on fuel. After they land, Cougar takes himself off flight status, and resigns. Although disapproving of Maverick's reckless flying and repeated violations of rules, the Enterprise's CAG "Stinger" sends Maverick and Goose—now his top crew—to attend the Navy's Fighter Weapons School, known as "Top Gun", at NAS Miramar. Maverick begins to pursue flight instructor Charlie and becomes a rival to top student Lieutenant Tom "Iceman" Kazanski (Val Kilmer), who considers Maverick's methods dangerous and unsafe. Although outwardly critical of Maverick's tactics, Charlie eventually admits that she admires his flying but was critical because she was afraid for her credibility. They begin a romantic relationship. However, Maverick's reckless behavior would soon cost him the life of his best friend and partner Goose. And after losing him to a tragic event when their plane suffers a flameout on both engines, Maverick must regain his strength and his passion for flying if he is to stand a chance against the enemy forces.
Personal Comments: It's been a while now since I reviewed a good film from 1986 (Transformers: The Movie), and it's been a while since I talked about a shitty film from that year (Evil in the Woods). But I thought I'd take this time to talk about another one of the gems from that era. Now, I have referenced this movie in my review of Area 88, which shares a lot in common with the subject I'm going to be talking about for this review. And I even mentioned this movie in my review of that totally abysmal train wreck of a film Evil in the Woods along with several other movies that came out that year when I was explaining how 1986 was a big year for movies. And believe me, I am being flat out honest when I say that 1986 was a big year for movies. And Top Gun is without a doubt, one of the best movies of that year, and of all time. Like a lot of other great classic films from its time, it hasn't aged a day. It's class is eternal. And this is probably one of the films that you may one day in your later years tell to your children and your grandchildren that film was so much better back in the old days.
Originally released May 16th, 1986, this was the film that introduced me to Tom Cruise, who is still in the acting business today, and it's one of the films that he is most remembered for. And this was also the movie that introduced me to warplanes. And yes, this was a few years before he played as Lestat in the 1994 film “Interview with the Vampire”, and the “Mission Impossible” series. And of course, this film came many years before some of Tom's more recent films like “Vanilla Sky” (2001), “The Last Samurai” (2003), “Collateral” (2004), “War of the Worlds” (2005), “Valkyrie” (2008), “Knight and Day” (2010), “Oblivion” (2013), and his most recent film “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014). However, Tom Cruise's career started a few years prior to the release of Top Gun. In 1981, Tom Cruise made his debut in a film called “Endless Love”. And after starring in films like “Taps” (1981) and “The Outsiders” (1983) as supporting roles, his first major lead role was in a movie called “Risky Business”, which was released in August of 1983. But not many people seem to remember that was well as they may remember Cruise's role in Top Gun as the pilot Pete Mitchell AKA Maverick.
This film also starred several other famous actors including Val Kilmer, who I remember for his roles as Jim Morrison in “Oliver Stone's The Doors” (1991), Doc Holliday in the Western Tombstone (1993), Chris Shiherilis in the crime saga “Heat” (1995), Batman in the unsuccessful and highly criticized film Batman Forever (1995), Simon Templar in The Saint (1997), and an informant in the 2002 crime thriller The Salton Sea. Michael Ironside is best remembered for his role as Richter from the original Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall (1990). But he's been in a lot of other films besides that. And of course, he's had the misfortune to star in mediocre films like Heavy Metal 2000, which I reviewed earlier. And more recently he played as the voice of Ultra Magnus in the TV series Transformers Prime. And I think Ironside did an excellent job in voicing the character. In fact, he was a worthy successor to Robert Stack, the original voice of Ultra Magnus. And of course we have James Tolkan, who also starred as the mean bald-headed principal Mr. Strickland in the highly acclaimed 1985 Michael J. Fox film series ”Back to the Future”. And yes, he played a role in Top Gun as well. And this movie came out only a single year after Back to the Future. So it wasn't far off.
So anyway, I was three years old when this movie came out in theaters. And even as a three year old, I instantly fell in love with this movie. For me, Top Gun is one of the best films Tom Cruise has ever starred in. And it's well deserving of the attention and the acclaim that it has received. Of course, when I first heard of this film, I didn’t see it when it was in theaters. But rather, I saw it on a VHS tape with my brother around the time when the film came out. And I watched this movie all the way through. What makes Top Gun so special is that it's essentially more of a drama than it is an action flick. But it does have some breath taking action scenes to get the adrenaline flowing and to build up some excitement. And boy are these action scenes well edited and put together. No words can describe it. For a film that was released nearly 30 years ago, it still holds up wonderfully today. And most of them involve aerial combat scenes with warplanes. The plane that is most commonly used throughout this film is the famous F-14 Tomcat, which was first introduced to the air-force and the Navy on September 22nd, 1974. The F-14 was considered to be one of the best and most useful air-crafts of its time. And it was commonly used throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. But then, on September 22nd, 2006, the plane was retired. Eventually, it was replaced by the F-22 Raptor in 2005, and its still in use today. While it lacks certain aspects that the F-14 Tomcat had, the F-22 Raptor is a worthy successor to its predecessor. So anyway, onto the premise of this film. Well, the story is as basic as it gets. It's about a cocky US Navy pilot named Pete Mitchell, who often goes by the alias “Maverick”. He and his best friend Goose are two of the best pilots in the Navy. However, his commanding officers strongly disagree with and object to the way the two pilots handle things. In fact, one of the funniest parts I remember of this movie is where Maverick and Goose fly by the command center in their plane, which causes a high ranking commanding officer to spill his coffee on his uniform, to which he exclaims “God damn that son of a bitch!” And what's even more hilarious is that it's repeated again towards the end, only the officer says “God damn that guy!” instead of the former. That's one aspect of this movie that has remained in the back of my head for ages. Another line that this movie is well known for is the scene where Maverick and Goose say “I feel the need... The need... For speed.” which was referenced in the first live action Transformers film.
Maverick takes a personal interest in Charlie Blackwood, the flight instructor at the base of operations. Now the funny thing about this relationship is that Maverick was the student, and Charlie was the instructor. Now, normally I would consider it rather awkward that a student would take romantic interest in a professor. But then again, this isn't high-school or college; this is the Navy. And besides, Maverick and Charlie appeared to be around the same age. And they did develop mutual feelings of respect and admiration for one another. So I guess this is a normal sort of relationship. And not only that, but they actually do develop somewhat of a romantic relationship. As to be expected, they don't quite see things eye to eye at first since they are two different individuals with personalities and characteristics that greatly differ from one another. In fact, one part I remember well is when Maverick was on his motorcycle, and rev up the motor to sound over Charlie's speech as she was trying to speak to him. And in the midst of her speech which was muffled by the motorcycle's engine, Maverick sarcastically says “What's that? I can't hear you!”. Of course, Charlie is not the kind of person who gives up so easily. As she is quick to assort her authority when she follows him in his car, and when she finally catches up to him, she boldly declares “I'm going to finish my speech!”, though Maverick is still a stubborn stuck up. But eventually, things worked out between them. Especially towards the end where they admit their feelings to one another.
The one scene in this entire movie that really brings out the drama is the part where Maverick loses Goose. And it all starts when during a , Maverick goes one-on-one with Viper. Although Maverick matches the older pilot move for move, Viper lasts long enough for Jester to maneuver around and "shoot" Maverick down, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability. Towards the end of the program, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester. Under intense pressure from Maverick, Iceman breaks off. Maverick's F-14 flies through the jet wash of Iceman's aircraft and suffers a flameout of both engines, entering a flat spin and falls straight down, forcing both Maverick and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned aircraft canopy, which breaks his neck and kills him instantly. Although the board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilty and heartbroken over Goose's death, losing his aggressiveness and confidence when flying. Charlie and others attempt to console him and set him straight, but Maverick is too depressed to carry on, and considers leaving the Navy. Unsure of his future, he seeks Viper's advice. Viper reveals that he served with Maverick's father and discloses classified details over his last mission, explaining how someone named Duke stayed in the fight after his Phantom was hit and saved three planes before he died. Information about the dogfight was classified to avoid revealing that the American planes were not where they should have been. Eventually, Maverick regains his strength to continue his duty as a pilot, and he returns to the Navy to fight off the opposing enemy forces. His new partner is a guy nick named “Merlin”, who acts as his new wingman.
Maverick and Merlin are assigned to one of two F-14s as back-up for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite Iceman's reservations over Maverick's state of mind. Maverick is sortied alone due to catapult failure and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose's death. Upon rejoining Iceman, they shoot down four MiGs and force the others to flee, and return to the Enterprise, where the two men (Maverick and Iceman), with newfound respect for each other, finally become friends. Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to Top Gun as an instructor. Later, he tosses Goose's dogtags into the ocean, finally freeing himself of guilt over Goose's death. Sitting alone in a restaurant in downtown San Diego, Maverick hears "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" playing on the jukebox and recalls meeting Charlie. She reveals that she is in the bar and the two reunite. The film ends with a cast role call, followed by two F-14s flying through a red sky before the closing credits. Now, much like Transformers: The Movie, which came out in the same year as this film, Top Gun doesn't fade to black like most movies. But rather, it just freezes the image in place as the credits roll.
Another thing I want to talk about for this review is the soundtrack. And man this movie has quite a solid soundtrack for its time. In fact, the Top Gun soundtrack is one of the most popular soundtracks to date. It was composed by several artists that were popular at the time, and they composed some really awesome songs for this score. The songs in this soundtrack include the following; “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Mighty Wings” by Cheap Trick, “Playing with the Boys”, which was also by Kenny Loggins, “Lead Me On” by Teena Marie, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, “Hot Summer Nights” by Miami Sound Machine, “Heaven in Your Eyes” by Loverboy, “Through the Fire” by Larry Greene, “Destination Unknown” by Marietta, “You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'” by The Righteous Brothers, and the Top Gun anthem by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens. “Danger Zone” is the one song that is heard frequently in several parts of this film. Particularly the scenes that involve aerial combat. Hot Summer Nights is played in the scene where the pilots enjoy a game of volley ball. Take My Breath Away serves as a love song that symbolizes the romance between Maverick and Charlie, and it's one of the songs that I've had stuck in my head for ages. There's also a sad and somber track titled “Memories”, which plays during and after Goose's death scene. And it really has brings out that kind of emotion and drama. “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'” plays towards the end of the film where Maverick and Charlie get back together. “Mighty Wings” is the song that plays in the closing credits of this movie. And it definitely has that adrenaline flowing sound to its beat and rhythm. Now, it took me ages to find this soundtrack. Not because its rare, but because I didn't get my bank account until the mid to late 2000s. But somwhere in between 2005 and 2006, I was able to purchase my own copy of this soundtrack from my local musical store. And let me tell you, this soundtrack has me coming back to it again and again. Yes, it's that awesome. Like the Transformers movie soundtrack, it's class is ageless.
Now, it gives me great pain to say that the director of this film, Tony Scott, died on August 19th, 2012. It was said that he committed suicide by throwing himself off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the San Pedro port district of Los Angeles California. Witnesses said that he did not hesitate before jumping to his death. His body was recovered from the water by the Los Angeles Port Police. Within hours of his death, a rumor began circulating that a possible motive for his suicide was that he had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. On October 22, 2012, authorities announced that the cause of Scott's death was “multiple blunt force injuries”. Therapeutic levels of mirtazapine and eszopiclone were in his system at the time of death. A coroner's official also affirmed Scott "did not have any serious underlying medical conditions" and was not suffering from cancer. Whatever the cause was, only one thing is for sure; he is sorely missed. And he is remembered for his works.
Since its initial release date, Top Gun immediately became a major success and was the highest grossing film of 1986. It was number one on its opening weekend with a $8,193,052 gross, and went onto a total domestic figure of $176,786,701 internationally, and it took an estimated $177,030,000 for a worldwide box office total of $353,816,701. The film was nominated for and won many awards, most prominently for its sound and effects. The film was awarded for best musical soundtrack (including the song “Take My Breath Away”), best sound and video editing, and best cinematography. The dogfight scenes are absolutely amazing. And it still holds up today. Top Gun was released on VHS just after its theatrical priemere. And then it saw a release on DVD and Blu-Ray in recent years. Rumor has it that there was supposed to be a sequel to this movie. On September 8, 2014, Paramount and Skydance revealed being in negotiations to have Justin Marks write the screenplay.
Overall: To this day, nearly 30 years later, Top Gun remains one of my top favorite childhood movies of all time, right next to other great classics of the 80s. And not only that, but it remains one of Tom Cruise's most remembered feature films in his career even after many years later. I can clearly say without a doubt that Top Gun is by far one of the best movies I've seen in my life. And its no contest for being one of the best 80s films of all time. Looking back at this movie today, it still holds up by today's standards. This is one of those films that has me returning to it again and again just to relive old memories. And boy does this film bring back so many wonderful memories. With its nice blend of story telling, drama, dogfight scenes, epic soundtrack, and an excellent cast of actors, Top Gun has definitely withstood the test of time. Tony Scott may be gone now. But his memory lives on in this incredible masterpiece that he has given us. I'll give Top Gun a solid 5 stars.