Just one day after watching Top Gun (1986) for the very time, I knew it was finally time for me to check out the highly acclaimed and beloved sequel, Top Gun: Maverick (2022). Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick is an action drama film starring (of course) Tom Cruise as he is supported by a wonderful cast including Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Val Kilmer, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Jon Hamm, Danny Ramirez, and Jay Ellis. While I wasn’t particularly wowed by the first Top Gun movie, I had heard nothing but high praise for this sequel since its release. So I guess you could say I was pretty excited and did expect on some level, to be wowed. And let me say this loud and clear now that I’ve seen it – my biggest regret is not watching Top Gun: Maverick in theatres when I had the chance last year. Even with watching this movie on a small iPad screen, I was 100% enthralled by the amazing aerial sequences, the stunning camera shots, and the Tom Cruise-iness of it all.

Maverick leading the team into the dangerous mission

To me, this sequel was far far better than the original Top Gun film and felt like in a way, it was just Top Gun remastered. Since I had the luxury of watching these movies essentially back to back, I noticed immediately how so many scenes and shots in this sequel were similar or shot by shot remakes of the original. Of course, given that I only just watched Top Gun the day before compared to many of you who have been waiting 30+ years for a sequel you never knew you needed, my experience of this film is probably a lot more different than yours. For instance, while I definitely appreciated the callbacks and references to the first film, I’m missing that 30+ years of nostalgia that would’ve definitely made the movie hit a lot harder. But what I will say is that what I didn’t like about the original felt much more improved in Top Gun: Maverick. While some of my criticism about the cheesy add ins remain the same, it just felt like this one had a far more cohesive and engaging story.

And I’m so happy to hear that Top Gun: Maverick grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide by the end of its theatrical release – there were a lot of talk about how this movie revitalized the age of movie stars where big names would draw in the crowds (Tom Cruise certainly did that with this one). With big franchises like Marvel, DC, and Star Wars undoubtedly always raking in the big bucks to make billions of dollars these days, it was definitely a pleasant surprise hearing that a film without superheroes, dinosaurs, or lightsabers could grab the attention of so many and exceed all expectations.

Miles Teller as Rooster and Monica Barbaro as Phoenix in the bar singing to Great Balls of Fire

What was even better was reading about the number of times people went back to theatres to repeatedly rewatch Top Gun; Maverick. And no, I don’t just mean once or twice, I’m talking five or six times! After seeing this movie myself, I can totally understand why. Top Gun: Maverick is just so thrilling to experience as it really captivates all your senses. While I had some difficulty following along with the aerial sequences and fights in the first film, everything was laid out so crisp and clear in this sequel. I felt like I could really see everything that was going on (including the pilot’s emotions and expressions), and that really added to the intensity and nail-biting experience of each and every fight. And yes, while the plane maneuvers and combat scenes were incredibly flashy and so cool to watch, what I personally loved was how it made me feel; I felt so so nervous and anxious with each dive, each dodge, each turn that the pilots had to make. I could really feel what was at stake with the mission and a lot of it is very much thanks to actors’ raw performances.

Tom Cruise is as Tom Cruise as ever and in these thirty or so years since Top Gun‘s release, there was certainly a noticeable improvement in his acting ability as Maverick. I liked that with this film, there was an actual story to follow and that I could feel the character development with Maverick. It didn’t feel like we were just following him around, it felt like we were watching a real person dealing with difficult choices and decisions to make. And what’s so great about Cruise is that his involvement in any film always brings a certain level of authenticity that the audience can feel. While it can be dangerous because it also brings forward a level of expectation, he had zero problems with exceeding everyone’s expectations with this film.

But even with Cruise at the forefront of this film, Teller and Powell felt like real stand outs to me. Perfect casting is always something very hard to achieve, but with casting decisions like Teller, it makes me believe it’s possible. His resemblance to Anthony Edward’s character of Goose is astonishingly believable, but not only that, Teller was able to capture some of his mannerisms right too. Little details like that really helped with the continuity of the story and it also added in that impactful nostalgic factor that I’m sure so many fans appreciated. As for Teller’s performance in this film, I really felt he stood his own against the powerhouse that Cruise is. He managed to bring forth a performance that felt strangely personal and intimate, but also humourous and bold. I really enjoyed seeing him on screen and was glad to see he nailed the role.

Powell on the other hand had a much smaller role (surprised he didn’t even get to fly the mission at the end although it made sense!) but he totally delivered with what he was given. Cocky and extremely arrogant, at first I thought Powell’s character of Hangman was just a direct replica of Maverick from the first film. However, my opinion of him changed as we got to witness his subtle growth and development by the end and despite his small screen time, I thought it was done really well. What I personally loved so much about Hangman was despite his arrogance, Powell managed to make him feel more charming rather than unlikeable. Would’ve loved to see more of him!

As far as original action movies go, Top Gun: Maverick might’ve just soared to the top of my list. The execution of this film was just done so incredibly well it resulted in some truly jaw-dropping and breathtaking moments. While Top Gun faltered due to its messy storyline, I felt Top Gun: Maverick succeeded because its stunning visuals were backed by a thoughtful (though still somewhat generic) plot. Hitting all the right spots for fans who have waited 30+ years, this film was an absolute delight for both passionate old time supporters and curious newcomers like me. For being such an adrenaline-packed adventure, Top Gun: Maverick is getting a 9.5/10 from me. I have no doubts that I’ll be rewatching this one in the near future, and that it will continue to stay on my “movies to rewatch” list for a long time.