As if the 80's weren't already 80's enough, in 1986 we got the most patriotic, corniest blockbuster imaginable: Top Gun. Directed by Tony Scott, the film starred Tom Cruise in his then most bankable role and followed cocky fighter jet pilot Maverick as he starts training with the best of the best.
If you ever wondered why Michael Bay sets all his films at sunset, the answer is Top Gun as pretty much every scene in Scott's movie takes place in front of a golden sky. We first meet Maverick (Cruise) and his friend Goose (Anthony Edwards) as they show off their bold yet reckless flying and manage to save a panicking pilot who would have otherwise crashed. Because apparently mixed messages are an old navy favourite, they are told off then promoted and sent to the Top Gun school of awesome pilot douchebags where their confident, playful attitude is quickly rejected and criticised before Maverick proves himself worthy. There, they meet alpha-douche Iceman (Val Kilmer), who constantly ridicules the newbies with a s**t-eating grin and Maverick soon develops a romance with Kelly McGillis' civilian instructor Charlie, not knowing who she was initially.
This being a Tony Scott film, the film is undeniably gorgeous-looking. Every shot looks like it was varnished to perfection and dipped in honey including all the fighter jet footage which is still impressive to this day. Add to that a catchy soundtrack packed with hits like Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" and you've got yourself an understandably popular blockbuster. And yet, one wonders if the same film would sell any tickets if it was made today, without Tom Cruise. Not that it's bad but it's certainly nowhere near as good as what the absurdly high box-office results would have you believe. While beautifully shot, those jet scenes are often incomprehensible and, unless you're a wannabe fighter pilot yourself, I can't see anyone really caring all that much about those sequences or the mostly obnoxious characters flying said jets.
Plot-wise, Top Gun is paper thin and is about as predictable as it gets. Though the sudden death of one particular character is admittedly surprising, you never doubt for a second that Maverick will somehow heroically save the day in the end and earn the respect of even his most reluctant team mates. It's essentially every sports movie ever made but with planes. On the plus side, Cruise is effortlessly charismatic, as ever, and the macho-ness of it all makes the film pretty entertaining from start to finish. Whether it's the testosterone bouncing off the walls during the classroom/locker-room scenes or that thoroughly homoerotic topless beach volleyball sequence, there's enough camp and cheese in there to keep those who couldn't care less about jets amused. Other cast members worth sticking around for include Michael Ironside, Tom Skerritt and Meg Ryan.
If it's a fun Tom Cruise film you're looking for, then you could do a lot worse than Top Gun as it remains a visually stunning, if painfully 80's, action film like no other. You could, however, do a lot better as even car-themed clone Days Of Thunder attempts to tell an involving, memorable story with likeable characters.
I feel the need, the need for Speed!
(that's a much better movie)