Maverick is a hot pilot. When he encounters a pair of MiGs over the Persian Gulf, his wingman is clearly outflown and freaks. On almost no fuel, Maverick is able to talk him back down to the Carrier. When his wingman turns in his wings, Maverick is moved up in the standings and sent to the Top Gun Naval Flying School. There he fights the attitudes of the other pilots and an old story of his father's death in combat that killed others due to his father's error. Maverick struggles to be the best pilot, stepping on the toes of his other students and in a different way to Charlie, a civilian instructor to whom he is strongly attracted. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
If there's ever proof of the cachet of Naval Aviation, this is it. Those poor Air Force guys got a trio of "Iron Eagle" flicks that went from bad to horrible, whereas the Navy flyboys got this great 1980's classic. Sure, it's cheesy and corny, but it makes the cheese and corn taste pretty damn good. A cynic might argue that it's just a two hour long Navy recruiting ad (one that worked for me, two years later I found my ass in Pensacola sweating through AOCS, short for Aviation Officer Candidate School, the program immortalized in "An Officer and a Gentleman") but by making a pro-Navy movie, the filmmakers also got invaluable technical assistance from top Navy aviators, and it shows.
For starters, although this movie takes numerous liberties in order to entertain, the basic setup, in which fighter pilots from the fleet get sent to NAS Miramar, aka, "Top Gun" for intensive training, is 100% accurate. The Navy, back during Vietnam, was getting sick of losing too many pilots in air-to-air combat. The problem, they discovered, was their fighter jocks had been trained for purely long-range missile interceptions, meaning they'd lost their dogfighting skills. And, in Vietnam, several American planes were accidentally shot down by their own side by missiles, so, as a safety factor, enemy planes had to be visually identified, meaning American pilots were back to engaging the enemy at short range, hence the need for dogfighting. The "Top Gun" school was started as a result, and the rest is history.
Now, back to the movie. Tom Cruise is Maverick, a hotshot pilot but also somewhat unstable. If "Risky Business" launched his career as a movie star, then "Top Gun" cemented it. Guys wanted to be like him, and women of course lusted after him. The plot is pure formula, but executed with consummate professionalism. The team who put this movie together knew exactly how to push all the right buttons. But the crème de la crème is surely the flying. I don't think that any movie, before or since, has ever rendered air combat in a more convincing and dramatic fashion. For nearly 100 years fighter pilots have been the modern equivalent of olden knights, men who brought a sense of glamour and romance to the deadly art of war, and this movie gives them a fitting tribute.
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