Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

© Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media and Bruckheimer Films

Top Gun: Maverick – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Monica Barbaro, Charles Parnell, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis

Directors: Joseph Kosinski

Synopsis: After decades of service in the US Navy, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is called back to train some new recruits for a dangerous new mission…

Review: What more is there to be said about Tom Cruise? For over four decades, here’s an actor who has poured his heart and soul into his projects, pulling off death-defying stunts, all to provide the audience with thrilling entertainment, which has cemented his reputation as one of the best action movie stars of his generation. While his most jaw-dropping stunt work has come in the Mission: Impossible franchise, arguably the first of the many iconic roles that he’s provided audiences with over the years was the cocky US Navy Pilot in Top Gun.  Now, somewhat much later than planned due to numerous delayed release dates, Cruise is taking audiences back to the skies once more, for an utterly enthralling sequel that will please long time fans of the original and new fans alike.

After more than three decades of service in the US Navy, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is right where he wants to be, serving as one of the most skilled pilots whilst continuously avoiding the calling of a higher rank that would prevent him from taking flight ever again. However, upon the request of Tom “Iceman” Kazinsky (Kilmer), he’s called back to Top Gun to lead the training of a batch of new recruits, billed as the best that the Navy has to offer, for a highly perilous mission that will test their skills as pilots to the limit. However, whilst training these new recruits, Maverick must contend with the fact that one of the new recruits is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Teller), the son of his late best friend Goose, who died whilst flying with Maverick.

To reprise a role after over 30 years can be a risk, as it can so often be one of two things. It can either tell a story that is worth telling, or it could (especially given Hollywood’s love for using nostalgia) be used as a mere excuse to print money at the box office. While this sequel does walk the line between being nothing more than a nostalgia trip for fans of the original, it does earn its place as a more than worthy sequel. However, while the script by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie certainly weaves some of that nostalgia into the story by immediately blasting Kenny Loggins’s opening song in the opening credits, it is also a story that packs plenty of emotional weight, especially where Maverick, and where he is at this moment in his life, is concerned.

Cruise, as he so often is, is effortlessly watchable. He exudes the swagger, charisma and cockiness that made him such made Maverick such an instantaneous icon of 80s action cinema. However, through all that charisma and extraordinary skill to fly a fighter plane, there’s an overriding sense of guilt that despite being cleared of any blame for the death of Goose, Maverick still feels responsible for what happened. It is a responsibility that he is forced to confront when Goose’s son Rooster becomes one of his pupils. While Maverick has to balance his desire to be the father figure for Rooster that he never had, and his teacher, Rooster continues to harbour resentment for Maverick’s part in his father’s death. The dynamic between the two creates an emotional arc that drives the story forward, whilst giving Teller an opportunity to remind us of what a talented actor he is with an extremely impactful performance.

For the majority of the new recruits, while they are all charismatic presences, any attempt at a backstory or character development for any of them, apart from Rooster, is minimal at best. This also goes for much of the rest of the new cast. There is an extremely emotional moment between Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Iceman. Jon Hamm shines with what little screen time he has as a Vice Admiral who would love nothing more than to ground Maverick for good. For Maverick’s love interest, there’s no mention of Kelly McGillis’s Charlotte. Instead, she is replaced by Jennifer Connolly’s Penny, a past flame of Maverick’s whose only purpose is to give him the motivation to ensure he makes it back home.

Re-teaming with Joseph Kosinski, who helmed Tron Legacy and Oblivion with Cruise, it’s not overstating it to say that these aerial action scenes are some of the most exhilarating action scenes that have ever been put to film. It is estimated that a whopping 800 hours worth of footage inside real-life planes was shot, enough time to watch the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy approximately 70 times over! It is an extraordinary herculean endeavour from all of the crew, from Kosinski’s immaculate direction to the terrific sound work, it puts the audience in the cockpit of these planes like they are in the cockpit with these incredibly skilled pilots as they train for the toughest mission of their naval careers.  When it comes time for the mission during the all-important third act, the tension is dialled to the maximum and never lets up for the rest of the film. After all those delays due to the pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick earns its wings by becoming a rare sequel that surpasses its predecessor in just about every single way.

A spectacular combination of pulsating spectacle, combined with a grounded and emotional story that pulls on the heartstrings, ensures that this is a sequel that passes with flying colours and will truly take your breath away. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Whiplash (2014)

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Image is property of Sierra/Affinity, Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions, Right of Way, Films Sony Pictures Classics

Whiplash  – Film Review 

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis:  A story of an aspiring young drummer who gets his chance to enrol at a music school as he seeks to impress a brilliant but maniacal music coach who will push his students to breaking point…

Review: Jazz music, a sweet and relaxing genre of music that you put on after a difficult day’s work,  or to the background music for a beautiful date. It’s the perfect music for a laid back occasion, right? Normally yes but under the guidance of one music teacher, a day’s work for a young upcoming drummer, the jazz music will involve your teacher screaming in your face, sweating buckets, and also throwing objects at you after a mistake.

That young drummer is Andrew played by Miles Teller, a young man who’s determined to make the grade as a drummer and in style. He will do whatever it takes to be the best, and that includes dumping his poor girlfriend along the way as he sees her as an obstacle on his path to success. Teller is fantastic in this role that is a breakthrough performance for him. With the Fantastic 4 reboot on the way later this year, this was his chance to shine, and boy did he hit every note spot on. The frustration, the joy and the tears of a young man doing everything he can to be the best, is some of the most riveting and suspenseful cinema you will ever see.Anyone watching can empathise as we all would go through anything to achieve our hopes and dreams to be the best in our profession. With one masterful performance on board, it is matched by another superb performance by J.K Simmons as Terence Fletcher.

This man is a HARDCORE instructor, screaming expletives, hurling chairs, and making his musicians perform until blood is dripping from their hands and they cannot play any more. A real psychiatric war breaks out between our two main stars, and it is flawless in its delivery and execution. Teller is absolutely on point no question, yet this is the performance of a career from Simmons. You want to hate him for the way he treats his students, and his harsh and somewhat brutal methods, but you understand the drive and passion he has for the craft and wanting to see his students achieve success. Simmons swept the board in this year’s awards season and fully deserved every gong that came his way, which included the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Through the scenes where Andrew is performing and Fletcher is conducting, there is an incredible amount of tension. Arm rests are gripped tight as you pray for our resolute and determined young performer to not make a mistake. You would think that this sort of scene would not create a terrible feeling of nervousness and dread among the audience, but it certainly did this and with great aplomb. It pulls at your heart strings and tears them out violently and as the film reaches its intense climax, heart rates will only get faster and faster, kind of like the beating of the drums, faster and faster until you are completely out of breath and blown away with what you have seen and you need a minute or two to calm down once the film has reached its nail biting finale. The film also offers one of the best endings we have seen in the past year of cinema. With no action, it packs anxiety and tension in more than a few scenes, as much as any hostage scenario or high octane thriller that has graced our screens in years gone by. However as the film reaches its crescendo,  you find yourself hoping for an encore.

Pulsating and nerve-racking throughout combined with two outstanding performances that will leave you breathless, this is the Mozart of film-making, incredible genius and perfection

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