Top Gun, that storied epic which so succinctly combined intense action sequences, Navy recruitment mechanisms and Kenny Loggins music, soared into theaters in 1986.
It has since been preserved in the National Film Registry of the United States Library of Congress.
The film truly is a force of raw adrenaline, which grabs audience members and takes them on a high-flying adventure through the legendary Top Gun flight school, located in Miramar, Cali.
Following the story of rogue pilot “Maverick” (as portrayed by highly acclaimed actor Tom Cruise) I was flown through a sky of high emotion as the film opens with Maverick and his copilot “Goose’s” encounter with a pair of Russian MiG fighter jets.
Maverick performed remarkably, forcing both Russian MiGs to evade from their intended course posthaste.
The pilot for whom they were the wingmen, “Cougar,” loses his nerve and requires help so as to land his F-14 fighter jet.
Ignoring orders from his superior officer, Maverick takes the initiative to ensure that Cougar lands on their aircraft carrier safely.
Once that misadventure concludes, Maverick’s commanding officer, after a suitable tongue-lashing and with many obvious misgivings, grants Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards) permission to attend Top Gun flight school for advanced fighter jet training.
The film then proceeds to advance a wonderful romance into the mix, highlighting the chemistry present between the beautiful “Charlie” (Kelly McGillis) and Maverick, who woos her (in my opinion) with his amateur musical chops at a bar.
After that, the rest, as they say, is history.
While the romantic subplot transpired, action seized its time in the spotlight once more, as F-14s roared through the blue California skies like eagles diving toward their prey.
The F-14s, which cost $10,000 per hour to fuel, truly were the grand gilded pedestal upon which this movie rests. Each sequence in which the fighter jets were involved truly evoked the spirit of the phrase “Danger Zone,” a popular song from the movie.
Much of the rest of the film until the climax hinged upon a semi-conflict between textbook ace “Iceman,” the most technically proficient pilot in the Navy, and Maverick, the hero of the story and a gifted pilot in his own right.
The two rivals strive to surpass each other during flight exercises, with Iceman usually coming out on top. This pushes Maverick to attempt more daring stunts, which leads up to the tragic climax of the movie, which is the death of Goose.
Goose’s death seems to shake Maverick to his very core, causing Maverick to fall into a stupor of self-loathing and listlessness.
The scene is made all the more powerful with the many character-developing moments that show how Goose has always been beside Maverick, to the point where Maverick considered Goose to be his only family.
With Goose dead, Maverick finds himself more alone than he has ever been. Then, his love interest leaves, which makes things worse for him.
With that emotional rollercoaster screeching to a halt, Maverick overcomes his own pride to attend his graduation from Top Gun, congratulating Iceman for winning the top of class prize.
In a show of ultimate closure, Maverick is tasked with accompanying Iceman as his wingman as they attempt to disable enemy MiGs encroaching upon American airspace.
Maverick, hesitating whilst preparing to engage, clutches Goose’s dog tags and is able to aid Iceman as he evades six MiGs hot on his tail.
The enemy fighters are dispatched in short order, and after an impromptu fly by, Maverick and Iceman return to the carrier to a hero’s welcome.
This film truly is the archetype for what it means to be an airman; the daring, the romance and the audacity to strive beyond conceivable barriers to achieve greatness.
Such was the spirit of the ‘80s, and such is the message of this glorious triumph of cinema gold.
I am unsure if I have done enough to recommend this movie, so I will let Maverick attempt it for me:
“I don’t know, but uh, it’s looking good so far.”