'Top Gun' (1986)
A Millennial Lens
June 11, 2022
My name is Nicholas Tanaka. I fell in love with movies and studied film in college, but due to my age, I haven't seen many of the classics. I've decided to go back and watch the films that have formed our movie landscape today, and view them with a modern lens.
This time around we decided to do a movie review for the dads out there. This month we are reviewing 1986's "Top Gun."
The story is deceptively simple. During the tail end of the Cold War, Maverick, a hot shot fighter pilot who has a chip on his shoulder, and his lovable co-pilot Goose, have a close encounter with an enemy fighter jet. The pair successfully defend from the enemy fighter and go to Top Gun, the premier fighter pilot school. Along the way, they make rivals of another skilled pilot, Iceman, and Maverick falls in love with civilian contractor, Charlie. While the story of the film leaves something to be desired, that is not why this film is a classic.
The cinematography is excellent, especially the shots on the aircraft carriers. The sun in the 80s must have been made of something else, because movies today do not look like this. The aerial dog fights are incredible. The aerobatics and skill with the camera are phenomenal. The only effect that has not aged well are the gunfire effects, which were added in post.
The acting in this film is not ground breaking, but much better than is required for a film like this. Anthony Edwards' Goose is the absolute heart of the film. You can't help but like Maverick because of how much Goose respects him. The antics between the two are fun and you truly believe in their friendship. The scene where they sing in the bar shows how much these dorks care for one another.
Val Kilmer's Iceman acts as a calm, cool, collected foil to the hot head Maverick. A scene that best shows how both actors play off one another is the scene after Goose's death, where Iceman tries to show Maverick warmth and compassion by consoling him. All the while, Maverick is shaking from the raw, intense grief he feels, barely keeping it in. The scene is short, but powerful and left a lasting impression.
The costuming, wardrobe and sets all felt very accurate. I'm not sure if this is an instance of art imitating life, or vice versa, but every pilot I've ever met looked and acted like Tom Skerritt's Viper. The production shot on real aircraft carriers, and around real F14 jets.
We should also discuss how this film sounds. The soundtrack feels ham-handed at times and a bit on the nose. However, I may feel that way today because of how iconic this film truly is. "Take My Breath Away," and of course "Danger Zone" are songs I can identify by the first few seconds because of how often this film is parodied and referenced. The catchphrases are not to be overlooked and have built the vocabulary of many fans.
While this film is not going to wow you with the acting or the story, the film is a technical marvel and shows a great respect for the craft of truly audacious spectacle. The Grumman F-14 Tomcat never looked so good. The late Tony Scott should be proud of the film he directed.