🎬 #20 The Thrill Ride of Cinema.
I’m not going to lie, I had different ideas for this week’s newsletter and I thought I’d settled on one but that all changed when I went to the IMAX earlier this week. I think every film deserves to be seen in the cinema, it’s one of the last spaces where people congregate together, away from devices and experience the same thing at the same time with no distractions. This venue has the power to literally transport you somewhere. Experiencing a film communally heightens everything you see and feel somehow. There is a tangible sense of emotional highs and lows that you feel from the tension, joy, sadness emitted from everyone surrounding you, not just what you’re seeing unfold in the story writ large in front of you. This can be true of a small, charming independent film, a comedy, or an action epic.
But there is a special, rare feeling that some films give you. You’ve all felt it before, when you walk out of the cinema feeling charged up by what you just saw. It’s more than feeling an emotion the filmmakers wanted you to or being satisfied by the film you just saw - it’s a type of cinema euphoria. You’re back out into real life, almost high from the experience. A few recent examples stick out to me - seeing the Matrix for the first time in cinemas, the tantalising end of Inception, feeling the scale of Dune or the mythical thump of 2001. There are films that literally impact you through the big screen experience. And I saw one this week that made me feel the same. This time, I’m recommending going out to the biggest screen near you and getting carried away by the power of cinema.
FILM: TOP GUN: MAVERICK
2022 Dir Joseph Kosinski
Best read while listening to this.
When I was at uni a lot of my classmates looked down on what you might consider quintessential Hollywood popcorn films but I always saw the great ones as just as important to cinema as the more high brow Criterion selection. And the original Top Gun directed by Tony Scott is one of those films.
The original has a special place in my heart - my Mum loved it and I remember watching it a lot growing up. Plus me and my brother were obsessed with the soundtrack. I also vividly remember one of my great friends Sean perfectly describing the theme [by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens] as ‘the American flag playing the electric guitar.’
But you don’t have to feel the same way as I do, like being stirred by the inclusion of the full Don Simpson / Jerry Bruckheimer logo in the opening credits, to enjoy the follow-up. It’s the kind of film you give in to, you get on board and let it take you with it.
Cruise, Kosinski, McQuarrie and team have managed to make a perfect sequel. Looking back at great sequels the general recipe seems to be ‘the same but different,’ playing on the strengths of the original but never feeling weighed down by it. What’s amazing about this follow-up is that it has so much iconic imagery to play with, so many memorable lines and moments from the original that are imbued with a collective cinematic nostalgia, but smartly, it doesn’t pander, pastiche or play them for laughs. There’s no winking to the audience because the audience already knows. The film knows what it is and what it is, along with being incredibly exciting and nerve-wrecking to watch, is surprisingly moving. I shouldn’t really say surprisingly, as the original’s central relationship between Maverick and Goose and it’s touching [spoiler] portrayal of Goose’s death had a warmth and tenderness that young me couldn’t handle.
Cruise, who’s often referred to as the last true movie star, has a dedication to cinema that feels sadly more rare these days. You can feel that dedication in every second of this film as he takes the role of Maverick into new territory. Sure he still has the ‘maverick’ attitude, and the love for speed, but he portrays a character who’s struggling with the fact that not just his career, but the very thing he defines himself as, a fighter pilot, is potentially coming to an end. This vulnerability [particularly in one scene which may be Cruises’ best performance since Magnolia] mixed with heart-stoppingly high stakes action is a joyous thing to behold.
There is also something brilliantly simple about the film. Instead of the whole world being at stake, or Armageddon being around the corner, there is one single mission to achieve and the training it’s going to take to achieve it. This is a flawless interplay and reflection on the original while building on top of those big foundations. Kosinski and team had a big challenge to surmount and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. The film wrapped almost 4 years ago and after delays and a huge weight of expectation - it might even have surpassed the original.
Joseph Kosinski along with this editing team have paced the film perfectly so that it doesn’t feel like a series of set-pieces with other scenes in between. While he and his cinematographer Claudio Miranda, render the film in the same nostalgic hues as the original. There is the same impressive hardware and even greater lengths have gone into shooting the aerial sequences for real with the cast in the cockpit. There’s no arguing that doing it for real as much as possible takes the emotional stakes to a whole new level. The iconic music is used perfectly and from frame one you know what you’re in for, but then as I said before, you might just be surprised by what it really delivers. Go see it and soar out of the cinema ✈️.
TL;DR why should I spend 2 hrs 11 mins of my precious life watching this? Not just another sequel. Cruise and team deliver an exhilarating, miraculous follow-up that plays as a perfect tribute to Tony Scott’s original, while also becoming something more.
*Available in cinemas now.
Fact: Christopher McQuarrie, one of the credited screenwriters and frequent Cruise collaborator, won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for The Usual Suspects.