There are some movies that even if they are not the best around still become so embraced by the public that they transcend into the illustrious heights of cult classics. Films such as this just happened to come around at the right time and there is some aspect of them that resonates with the public. One film that has achieved this is ‘Top Gun’. This movie is not the best made member of its genre. It is at times corny and over done but it has a certain something that makes you just outright enjoy watching it over and over again. It was 1986 and the cold war was far from its heights in the fifties and sixties but was still hanging on a national threat. The Viet Nam war was over for a decade but the American armed forces were still reeling from the defeat. Even our once magnificent space program had a major set back with the terrible tragedy of the explosion of the Challenger shuttle craft. What the public was clamoring for was a good old fashion pro American might flick and this is where ‘Ton Gun’ came in. Like many of the movies made in the mid to late forties this one was just short of propaganda for the U.S. military. It showed the brave men who served their country as noble, capable and willing to put their lives on the line for America. When considered from a technical cinematic standpoint the film has many flaws. The bottom line is very few people care it made you feel good about your country and yourself and that was all that mattered. This film than experienced resurgence in the nineties when almost every electronics store in the nation had a copy of this on laser disc to show off the new five channel sound systems. The jets roaring across the screen while the speakers burst at the seams pumping out the audio did a lot to sell the systems.
The story was based on an article in California Magazine by Ehud Yonay. Providing the script is Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. This was the first screenplay for Cash who would go on to pen such flicks as ‘Legal Eagles’, ‘Turner and Hooch’, ‘Dick Tracey’, two ‘Anaconda’ flicks and the live action Flintstones sequel. Epps had a few television episodes before this film and joined Cash on most of his projects. As you can see by their track record they are not known in the business for the strong stories around. One thing to remember is with a movie like this the story is not absolutely necessary. Sure you need something to kind of hold the flick together and they do provide a love story but people watch this film for the action sequences. The love story serves mostly to make it a type of date movie. Men would wait for the jet planes while their dates could become involved in the romance. What Cash and Epps deliver here is a protagonist who lives on the edge. He is one of the best pilots in the Navy and makes every attempt to live his life just as fast even when on the ground. He speeds along on a motorcycle, is not afraid to approach a beautiful woman and refuses to let her shut down his efforts towards her. This man is fiercely loyal to his friend and wingman while willing to do most anything to show up a rival for the top spot in the flight class. Basically, that is all there is to the story. They throw in a little tension at the end that reinforces the supremacy of the American pilots but generally this is a salute to machismo.
The man behind the camera calling the shots was one who made a career with high octane movies; Tony Scott. Talent runs in his family when you consider the box office that he and his brother Ridley have brought in. Tony Scott went on with his military theme in movies like ‘Crimson Tide’ and action with ‘True Romance’, ‘Enemy of the State’ and ‘Man of Fire’ to name just a few. This film was one of his earliest but it shows the origins of his unmistakable style. He certainly knows how to give the audience what they want. He can take a light script like this one and film it in such a way that the audience is pulled into the story and stays there. The film was shot on the USS Enterprise so a lot of what you see is very real. This is the film that made the careers of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. Cruise was on the rise after ‘Risky Business’ and ‘Taps’ but Kilmer was still unknown to most people in the audience. A high energy flick like this launched careers that are still going strong.
Lt. Pete Mitchel (Tom Cruise) is a Navy pilot who is brash, over confident and extremely talented in the air. Like most fighter pilots he is usually referred to by his call sign, Maverick. As the film starts he is aboard the USS Enterprise stationed in the Indian Ocean. Maverick is on a flight with his, Radar Intercept Officer "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards). They are flying wingman position for lead pilot "Cougar" Cortell (John Stockwell) and his RIO, "Merlin" Wells (Tim Robbins). They are off to intercept unknown aircraft that turns out to be Soviet MIGs. They buzz around each other with the Americans disobeying the rules of engagement. Cougar is low on fuel and unable to find his way back to the aircraft carrier and Maverick disobeys order to guide his friend back. Cougar is upsets over the incident and turns in his wings. This just sets up the way that Maverick lives up to his call sign. They are chosen to attend the top training school for navy fighter pilots known as Top Gun. The head instructor "Jester" (Michael Ironside) is a rough, no nonsense and tough as nails running his classroom with draconian precision. At the school Maverick is certain of top honors but he comes across one pilot with skills that rival his own, "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer). While on the ground Maverick has the same tenacity with the ladies as he does enemy aircraft. At a local bar he locks his sights on "Charlie" Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). He chases, she maneuvers out of his way, he pursues. As it turns out she is a faculty member at the top Gun school. They do eventually get together but Maverick’s time at the school is full of enough controversy to keep him very busy.
This film is being released as part of Paramount Studio’s ‘I Love the Eighties’ set of films. The basic release has been around for awhile now but if you haven’t added this to your collection yet this is your chance. The video is a very well preserved anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. The audio is still stunning after all these years. It is provided in DTS 6.1 and Dolby 5.1 versions. The DTS did have a lot more backfill keeping the rear speakers busy doing their job. There is a commentary track with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott and several naval experts. There are four music videos featuring the music that helped define the decade. They include ‘Danger Zone’ by Kenny Loggins, ‘Take My Breath Away’ by Berlin, ‘Heaven In Your Eyes’ by Loverboy and the Top Gun Anthem by Failtermeyer and Stevens. For those with high end systems there is also a Blu-ray version that has DTS HD audio. With this enhanced audio the dog fights are even better than you ever remembered them. The planes just seem to zoom around you at break neck speed. Any way you chose just make sure you get this film no matter which format you choose.