This is the first movie column by Christian Standard’s Andrew Wood. These reviews are designed to provide talking points about current movies that readers can use to take conversations with family and friends in spiritually thought-provoking directions.
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Top Gun: Maverick
PG-13 • 2022 • Action/Adventure • 2 hours 11 minutes
Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Val Kilmer, Glen Powell, Jennifer Connelly
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By Andrew Wood
Are you ready to fly back into the danger zone? Top Gun: Maverick will take you there.
Just like in its predecessor, Top Gun (1986), Navy pilot Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is doing his thing—flying at Mach speeds, going nose-to-nose against cocky rivals, and finding time to sweep a lady off her feet.
A lot has changed during the past 36 years, though. Planes are faster, drones are replacing pilots, and Maverick’s career has stalled. Maverick is stuck emotionally, too; he is drowning in guilt over the death of his best friend “Goose” and is trying to make atonement by being overprotective of Goose’s Navy pilot son, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw. Meanwhile, Maverick’s former rival, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, has advanced to admiral.
Without sharing too many spoilers, the Navy calls up Maverick to train next-generation pilots for an impossibly challenging mission—one that will require his special talents for outside-the-box thinking and strategically disobeying orders to get the job done. In the process, he shows he’s learned how to work as part of a team and to take responsibility for his life choices. Who knows? Maybe he’s finally ready to settle down with a family of his own.
Top Gun: Maverick is one of the very few sequels that is better than the original, which is saying a lot considering the enduring popularity of the first film. Maverick has grossed over $1.2 billion internationally, is this year’s highest-grossing film, and is the biggest moneymaker of Cruise’s career. The film has a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an 8.6/10 on IMDb, and 4/5 stars on Common Sense Media, which approved it as a “Common Sense Selection” for families.
Maverick not only flies into the danger zone of aerial combat, but also into such deep, universal human issues as grief, guilt, aging, parenthood, generational conflicts, and issues of authority and independence.
Older viewers will identify with the wistfulness of reflecting on a boisterous youth, albeit with hints of longing and regret. We who are older—including Cruise, now 60—understand the trepidation of seeing time pass and wondering whether the hard-won lessons we’ve learned will be lost on a younger generation intent on repeating our mistakes. Cruise’s interactions with Val Kilmer, who plays Iceman, are especially poignant as Kilmer’s health has declined in a real-life battle with throat cancer.
The movie is a tear-jerker but in a deeply satisfying way. Loss is real, but life goes on. As our roles change, there is still much joy to be had, much life to be lived, much experience to pass on. Having done our best to prepare the next generation, we can enjoy new rewarding relationships that bring healing to our losses.
Therein lies perhaps the movie’s main intersection with Christian thought: redemption is possible. No matter what mistakes you’ve made, what opportunities you’ve lost, what relationships you’ve damaged, it’s never too late. You still have a role to play and a contribution to make. You can’t bring back those who have passed on, but you can honor them by living life today gratefully and with an awareness of what you learned from those who went before you.
See this movie. Shed a few tears when no one’s looking. Then straighten your spine, lift your head, and accelerate your attitude to Mach 10.
If you’d like to engage with others about this movie, but on a deeper level, try some of these questions:
- What do you think were Maverick’s greatest strengths and weaknesses? How did they affect his life?
- Do you agree with how Maverick prioritized his love of flying over building a family or advancing in his Navy career?
- How far should we go in fulfilling promises to the dead versus respecting the wishes of the living?
- What would make you willing to risk your life for others?
- How would you feel about someone who risked or gave their life for you?
- Which character in the movie is most like you? Does the movie make you want to change anything in your life?
Andrew Wood, a former missionary to Ukraine and associate professor at Nebraska Christian College, is a freelance writer and serves in marketing and advertising sales with Christian Standard Media.