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Spalding Guardian columnist Gavin Miller: Maverick is the best action blockbuster in years

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Hollywood ‘Top Gun’ Tom Cruise well and truly brings back the cinematic experience with a high-octane ‘bang’ – yielding the best action blockbuster since Covid.

And one of the best films in the past few years. Full stop.

Director Joseph Kosinski – who finally hits the target after noteworthy (if middling) efforts such as Tron: Legacy and the Cruise-starring space opera Oblivion – also does a tremendous job of paying homage to the franchise.

Maverick (56910391)
Maverick (56910391)

With Cruise exceptional in the lead role, returning as the iconic Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, Kosinski commendably strikes a sensational balance between surprising freshness, nostalgia, action and emotion to make this one of the best sequels in history.

Yes, even better than the first film.

Some directors have to put their dramatic personal imprint on a series, but Kosinski forgoes that by offering oodles of fan service – and even manages to usurp a winning formula.

From the opening credits being a virtual carbon copy of the original film intro – complete with identical font and accompanying track – everything is done deliberately with gleeful aplomb.

Maverick has purposely dodged advancements in rank to remain as a (in his words) ‘highly decorated’ captain to continue his love as an aviation test pilot.

But when he is summoned for a specialist mission under orders from his legendary former rival and friend, Admiral Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky (Val Kilmer) – who is commander of the US Pacific Fleet – Maverick is tasked with training a group of a dozen youngsters heading into enemy territory.

Awkwardly among them is Lieutenant Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Whiplash’s Miles Teller), the son of his late best friend ‘Goose’ (who tragically died in the first film for the uninitiated), who still bears a grudge for his death – which leaves Maverick in an extremely tricky life and death situation. Send him on the mission and he could die, don’t send him and he’ll hate him forever.

Maverick also has an eclectic crew to keep him on his toes – including ‘hot-headed’ ace pilot ‘Hangman’ (Glen Powell) and the more-grounded ‘Phoenix’ (Monica Barbaro) – as he rips up the fighter pilot manual by vying for a dangerously low canyon passage attack on a uranium enrichment facility in hope of minimising casualties, and going in under the radar. Much to the chagrin of Jon Hamm’s by-the-book Naval Air Forces commander Vice Admiral Simpson.

And while the movie throughout sticks to regular ‘beats’ that made Tony Scott’s film such a fan favourite – with many elements of the original soundtrack returning (welcome back Kenny Loggins and Harold Faltermeyer) – its upgrades include military modernisation, an even more impressively likable cast, and stimulating sub-plots.

One said side-story, comes in the form of Cruise’s on-off relationship with Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly’s single mother and bar owner Penny, which again is a worthy inclusion.

In the end everything comes together like a well-oiled machine – almost timed to melancholic perfection by Kosinski – that it’s hard to really find fault throughout this enjoyable thrill ride. Even Maverick back on ‘that bike’ once again racing down the runway, elicits ‘chills’ as you hum to the musical score.

Familiarity definitely doesn’t breed contempt here, with everybody playing their roles to perfection. It’s so rare that a ‘wow factor’ hits you with such an enigmatically euphoric ‘thud’ – that you actually could go straight back into the cinema to watch it all over again.

For the first time in 36 years it’s absolutely time to ‘feel the need for speed’ all over again.

Rating: 5/5 Gavin Miller

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