DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Top Gun

Thursday 18 August 2011

Top Gun

Top Gun (1986) dir. Tony Scott
Starring: Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerrit, Michael Ironside


By Alan Bacchus

Despite being an ‘action film’, this immensely popular touchstone of pop culture cinema ironically succeeds not because of the action but because of the strange homoerotic machismo, which Quentin Tarantino famously articulated in the 1994 film Sleep With Me.

I (and probably QT) exaggerate for comedic effect, but the fact is Val Kilmer’s obscenely cocky and confrontational jarring with Tom Cruise is the heart and soul of this film – not the romance between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis’s Charlie character, which feels more like an arranged marriage pre-fabricated by the needs of the tentpole genre; certainly not the Reagan-era Cold War air battle that bookends the film; and certainly not Tom Cruise’s emotional journey from brazen yet vulnerable cocksure pilot harbouring a father complex to, well, the exact same character by the end of the film.

In the opening we see Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell flying manoeuvres in the Pacific Ocean against some Soviet MiG planes that are antagonizing their American rivals. His confidence and cockiness in the skies scares off the Russkies, but at the same time his friend Cougar suffers a nervous breakdown and quits the squad. The surly commander (James Tolkan) sends Maverick and his co-pilot Goose (Anthony Edwards) to ‘Top Gun’, the school for the top 1% of the pilots in the country.

At Top Gun, Maverick immediately discovers that Tom ‘Iceman’ Kozanski (Kilmer) is his rival, someone who, certainly in the battle for the coolest hair, wins outright. In the skies, Iceman’s skills are matched, but Maverick’s inability to play by the rules has him losing out every time. Meanwhile, Maverick has his cheesy pickup lines and sexual innuendos pointed at one of the school instructors, Charlie (McGillis), who is torn between being a tough but fair mentor and his smitten lover. After a tragic setback, Maverick threatens to quit, but he is talked back in by the Chief Instructor, Viper (Skerrit), to fight with Iceman against some more MiGs for the sake of the country.

In between all this are slow-motion, oiled up male bodies playing beach volleyball, cool blue-lit and silhouetted love scenes with tongue action, fast motorcycles, cool hair, Kenny Loggins and the muscle cars of the skies, the F14 fighters.

The dog fighting action is repetitive and actually quite dull. As mentioned, the attraction of this film is the pissing contest between Iceman and Maverick to see who is the ‘best of the best’. The whole movie is fuelled by this extreme egomaniacal competition, a strong allegory to the prevailing economic and social trends of the decade. Supporting the cockfight is the Greek Chorus of co-pilots, like the moustached and affable Goose, shamelessly portrayed as a wet blanket family man and the only one who wouldn’t take his shirt off in the volleyball game.

This film single-handedly birthed the Jerry Bruckheimer brand of macho filmmaking, which distinctly seems to rival Steven Spielberg’s classically romantic blockbuster filmmaking of the ‘80s. Tony Scott’s eye for slick and gorgeous cinematography looks better than ever on Blu-ray. Watch out for the bold, saturated colours popping out of the frame and the blacks crushed to annihilation into the screen.

Top Gun is available on Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment.

1 comment :

Andrew K. said...

Can't argue with this writeup, especially that last paragraph.