As one of the most lasting action films of the 1980’s, Top Gun is about the escapades of two fighter pilots “Maverick” (Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible, Minority Report) and “Goose” (Anthony Edwards, ER, Zodiac) as they progress through the Top Gun school for the nation’s best pilots.
What makes the film stand out is the differences seen between it and modern action films, and its focus on more dramatic scenes that are the most obvious. The one’s that shine through the clearest are the relationship between Goose and Maverick, and their rivalry between them and Iceman (Val Kilmer, Batman Forever, Tombstone), a character who “plays by the book”, contrasting to Cruise’s reckless persona. The aerial cinematography is stunning, which is a testament to the late Tony Scott’s directing skill, especially considering that it was made in 1986.
However, where this falls down is the clichéd romance sub-plot between Maverick and civilian instructor Charlie Blackwood (Kerry McGillis, Witness, The Accused). At these points, it stops becoming dramatic and just turns cheesy, especially when it’s set to Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”. Another thing is the lack of action. Whereas modern films tend to go over the top with the explosions, Top Gun tries to give the genre more depth, but it eventually ends up almost boring people. I thought the climax took too long to happen, and the plot suffered from a general lack of threat.
In general, Top Gun should be applauded for trying to add drama to the action genre, and the performances of Cruise, Edwards and Kilmer are striking. But it fails to get the balance right, and at times comes across as plain tacky. Despite the great camerawork, the lack of danger in the sparse action scenes failed to impress. Maybe this was because I was expecting Top Gun to be an action-packed war flick, and was left a little disappointed. But regardless, this film has managed to stand the test of time for a reason.