There’s nothing quite like a fighter pilot who can instill fear into the enemy. When those planes go up in the air, they are piloted by the best in the business, and perfection is of the utmost importance. Top Gun is a movie that celebrates the love of seeing those fighter jets scream across the sky and the maneuvers that the pilots perform to evade being shot down. Director Tony Scott, who specializes in delivering exhilarating action sequences, excels at bringing the intensity and thrills to Top Gun. Unfortunately, the script offers nothing more than bare basics in a movie that certainly has nothing to remember except for the flying sequences.
The movie follows two young and ambitious pilots, Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards). Maverick is a risky, daring, and supremely arrogant pilot who takes a lot of chances and never has a day where he doesn’t frustrate his Commanding Officers. Goose is Maverick’s best friend and Radar Intercept Officer, and they make a great team when they take to the skies. After a mishap operation, both Maverick and Goose are sent to TOPGUN, a Naval Fighter Weapons School to gain further training so that they will be the best pilots the United States has to offer.
The top one percent of pilots are to attend this specialized training school. They each have to prove their worth and skills in the sky to be recognized as the best. Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) is overseeing this six-week course. She is TOPGUN’s civilian instructor. Maverick already had an encounter with Charlie when he sang her a song at a bar to woo her, which failed. She is somewhat impressed with Maverick and his reputation of encountering a MiG-28, a fighter jet from the Soviet Union. He went toe-to-toe with one of those things, and wouldn’t you know it, Goose even took a photo to prove it happened.
Apart from the training school that only shows the audience a handful of courses, Top Gun doesn’t have much of a plot. Sure, we meet other pilots looking to prove how much of a badass they are, but the only notable one is Iceman (Val Kilmer), who is cautious of Maverick based on his reckless attitude when flying. Overall, Top Gun works with only a handful of scenes that detail the flying maneuvers, the focus of the pilot so he can lock onto a target, and the sound effects during those scenes are brilliant.
Top Gun is efficient and puts the audience on edge. Everything outside of that is largely missing. It would have worked better if it focused on the pilots, their actions, and the school itself. Instead, we are given a lazy script that throws in some action sequences to prevent the audience from becoming tired. The romance element between Maverick and Charlie feels unnecessary because we aren’t here to follow them. We want to know more about those jets and the pilots inside of them.
Even most of the pilots in the film are treated as unimportant side characters than actual characters. Top Gun is all style and no substance. The story is forgettable, and everything else is eye-candy.
Top Gun is efficiently made, exciting at some parts, and dead boring most of the time. Director Tony Scott brings his energy and usual color palettes to this movie, and visually, the film is impressive. Most of the characters aren’t fully realized, but once you see those jets screaming across the screen, you’ll probably forget about everything else. The story couldn’t be more simple-minded and tedious to sit through. Now, you got the jets and some iconic lines to quote for years. What more could you ask for from a movie from the 1980s?