Thursday, 2 April 2009

DVD Review - Top Gun (basic release)

Top Gun is a film that’s getting on a bit now, but it’s still good fun and you can get the DVD version really cheaply now, so get a little bit of film history and enjoy. It’s not brilliant but (for a Tom Cruise film) it’s pretty close.

DVD Extras

The DVD is feature packed with the film and… that’s it! No extras whatsoever! Deal with it.

(You’d only get smarmy Tom Cruise features anyway so it’s definitely no loss… do you start to get the impression that I’m not a big Tom Cruise fan?)

The Blurb

The blurb n the back of the DVD is worth a mention since it could be the very worst example of blurb writing in all film history. Read it and weep with laughter. An unintentional must-have. “Kelly McGillis sizzles as a flight instructor who teaches Maverick things you can’t learn in a classroom…”.. oh boy…

The Film

“Hey, where’s the film review?”, I hear you ask. Okay then, here it is…

Top Gun” is an Air Combat Academy for America’s best pilots (“and thus the world’s best”, intones an instructor… sheesh…) – the winner of which gets the coveted “Top Gun” title. A pilot tagged “Maverick” (Tom Cruise – Vanilla Sky... ugh…) and his partner “Goose” (a young Anthony Edwards – Dr Greene from ER) get into the school by a technicality when the first choice from their Carrier’s pilot crew gets an attack of nerves for no discernable reason, though you do find out a bit later. True to his name, “Maverick” is a completely reckless idiot but you just have to love him at the end of the day. I think that’s what you’re meant to do, anyway. Anyway, the course is run by the very first winner of the Topgun trophy (played by Tom Skerritt) and consists of a course of lectures and simulated combat missions (in real planes but not actually shooting the other plane for real – ‘cos that would be, er… stupid).

Other complications include: Maverick’s father having died in battle in questionable circumstances, enmity between Maverick and the bookies’ favourite for the Topgun trophy, “Ice Man” (Val Kilmer), and the inevitable love affair between Maverick and the civilian flight instructor (Kelly McGillis).

I said it was a piece of cinema history – the reason for this is, not only do you see early performances by Cruise, Kilmer, and Edward, but also Tim Robbins (you have to be really quick to notice him though!) and Meg Ryan (you really don’t need to be quick to notice her – she doesn’t so much appear as explode onto the screen!).

Pass the cheese, please

Even given the nature of his character, Cruise’s performance is just too cheesy for words. But then that’s part of the appeal of this film – it’s just so OTT that it’s enjoyable. Anthony Edwards is brilliant as “Goose”, while Kilmer does very well as “Ice Man”. The main problem with the cheesiness of Cruise is that in the scenes where he’s trying to be emotional, it just doesn’t look right. Skellett as the instructor has the right mixture of wisdom, enthusiasm, and professionalism to be realistic. Ryan is just awesome.

I think I can fly, right up in the sky, but… I … um.. can?

Of course, if the flight scenes were terribly unrealistic, the whole film would have fallen apart. Happily an amazing job has been done to put together what is evidently real Navy / Air Force clips together with SFX to make a remarkably believable set of flight / fight scenes. Even today it doesn’t look shoddy, and that’s quite an achievement when you consider how old the film is.

Would it be be given a "15" rating today?

It’s hard to say, but I’m pretty sure it would be a "12" nowadays (the US rating system would probably/possibly make it a PG-13?) – there’s certainly material not appropriate for children, a bit of language and a lot of innuendo, but nothing worse than I’ve seen in many "12" rated films. Oh yeah, there’s a frankly embarrassing sex scene too – maybe it would still be a "15"...


It’s not a classic in the accepted sense but it is a lot of fun and you will seldom get the chance to see so many of today’s famous actors / actresses together in a film before they were really famous. It’s part comedy, part romance, part action film, and part drama. Parts 1 and 3 work really well, parts 2 and 4 vary between okay and quite good. Oh, and there’s a couple of really terrible (intentionally) renditions of great songs – thankfully, the rest of the soundtrack is (also intentionally) superb. And if you like Tom Cruise too, you really can’t go wrong.

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