By Brian Lafferty
October 19, 2011 (San Diego) – I remember in elementary and middle school when the end of the month couldn’t come soon enough. The teacher would usually let us watch a movie, provided it was rated either G or PG. The first requested title was always Top Gun. It was (and still is) PG but the teacher invariably and immediately vetoed it. After having seen it years later, I’m amazed that the MPAA hasn’t upped it to PG-13.
If Risky Business was the breakthrough film for Tom Cruise, then it was Top Gun that forever cemented his place in cinema lore. Cruise is Maverick, an arrogant hotshot Navy fighter pilot who, along with his flight partner, Goose (Anthony Edwards) gets great news: they’ve been assigned to the top U.S. flying school, where they will compete for the coveted title of Top Gun. Maverick falls for the pretty instructor, Charlie (Kelly McGillis, coming off her outstanding performance in Witness a year earlier) and butts heads with his superiors and rival, Iceman (Val Kilmer).
Top Gun contains macho performances all around. Maverick is an arrogant son of a gun, but not a turn-off. The romance between Maverick and Charlie brims with sexual tension that is released in a sweet, tender, and nongratuitous love scene. The story overall is clichéd (it would later be copied in Days of Thunder, also directed by Tony Scott) but the movie goes along with it, sticks to it, and takes it all the way.
The aerial sequences, probably the main reason besides Tom Cruise to see this film, are majestic and inspire more awe than many movies today. Today’s aerial flight sequences are assembled via computer. In 1986, CGI was still in its infancy so Tony Scott had to use real jets. The exterior shots, where we see the jets in all their glory, are smooth and graceful. The camera in the cockpit shots swirl around frenetically. Scott achieves a fantastic rhythm and balance when these two shots are juxtaposed.
The booming sounds of the jets during the aerial sequences magnify their intensity. It’s available in DTS 6.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, but go for the former. It’s loud and even with a 5.1 surround sound system, you can both hear and “feel” the rush as the jets fly across the screen.
The average shot length is, as usual in Tony Scott’s films, short. It’s not chaotic short but I estimate each shot lasts around four to five seconds. This fits in with the film’s hotshot cowboy tone. It matches the intensity of the competition and the men’s egos. The editing in the ground sequences brings nearly, but of course not all, the same intensity as the aerial sequences.
The transfer is both good and bad. Good in that the colors are sharp (the sky and ocean are vastly blue) and that the transfer brings out a stark contrast between light and dark. The bad part is that I think they removed the grain for this release. At least it looks that way; sometimes, the characters’ skins resemble nearly molded clay, especially when they sweat.
The bonus features are the same as that on the DVD. The matter-of-fact, straight to the point, no words wasted commentary is very informative. The six-part documentary regurgitates some of the commentary but adds a lot more that couldn’t have possibly fit into one hour and forty-six minutes.
A Paramount Home Entertainment release. Director: Tony Scott. Screenplay: Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr. Cinematography: Jeffrey Kimball. Original Music: Harold Faltermeyer. Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. 110 minutes. Rated PG.
Brian Lafferty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @BrianLaff.