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TOP GUN

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt
Director: Tony Scott
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 6.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date:
August 5, 2008

"I feel the need…THE NEED FOR SPEED!"

Film ***

When I first saw Top Gun, I thought it was one of the greatest movies I had ever seen. Granted, I was seven years old at the time, and looking back now it would seem mighty silly to place this movie in the same league with Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters. Nevertheless, the movie is still enjoyable fun, as it continues to be one of the most popular movies of the 80s.

It's also the movie that made a breakout star of then-24 year old by the name of Tom Cruise. His charisma and energy paid off hugely in the role of cocky Navy air pilot Pete "Maverick" Mitchell. Had it not been for this movie, Cruise may never have become the leading man he is today, and the dynamite performances in Born on the Fourth of July, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, The Last Samurai and Collateral may never have existed.

The movie's title refers to the elite training academy designed for only the best of fighter pilots. After a huge daredevil stunt in the film's opening, Maverick (Cruise) receives news that he is being sent there, along with his co-pilot Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), in order to become THE BEST.

Once Maverick begins his elite training, he is faced with two potential distractions. The first is a rival in the form Iceman (Val Kilmer), who feels that Maverick is as irresponsible as they come. The second is that of Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), the super-attractive woman whom Maverick hits on at a club the night before he discovers she is in fact one of the instructors.

Now the love story portion of the movie is not one its stronger areas. Cruise and McGillis, if given more scenes together, might have struck some sort of memorable chemistry. One thing's for sure, they do enjoy a lengthy make out session in the shadows, with the song "Take My Breath Away" lurking on the soundtrack.

What makes Top Gun soar are the aerial sequences. I can't think of any other film before and around that time which made aerial flight so authentic that you felt like you were right there with the pilots. The nominations it got for the special effects work were well deserved. It was nominated against two equally superior movies; Aliens and Star Trek IV, and although James Cameron's film took home the prize, each of those movies included some major technical brilliance.   Luckily when you take a flight, the pilots don't fly like their Navy counterparts.  Business class flights can be exciting, but you will hopefully not experience the G-forces associated with a fighter jet.

The movie marked the first collaboration between director Tony Scott and producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. So it's fair to say that had this film never been made, Mr. Scott may never have been able to make stronger pictures for Bruckheimer such as Enemy of the State and Crimson Tide.

Top Gun, while not a masterpiece by any means, is still a technical marvel, and an important stepping stone for Cruise, Tony Scott, and most of everyone involved.

BONUS TRIVIA I: Look for pop up appearances from both Meg Ryan as Goose's wife and Tim Robbins as a fellow fighter pilot.

BONUS TRIVIA II: Cruise, Scott and producers Simpson and Bruckheimer all reunited four years later for, Days of Thunder, which could very much be considered Top Gun in a stockcar.

Video ***1/2

I never caught the movie on its original DVD release, but got word from a friend that the picture was not anamorphic and not even in the correct aspect ratio. Which ever the case, Paramount's new anamorphic presentation of the movie is quite stunning. This is without a doubt the clearest form I've ever seen the movie in, hands down! The picture is mostly clean and clear, given a brief soft area or two. For a movie from 1986, Paramount has certainly made a strong looking release. Full screen version also available.

Audio ****

Talk about a surprise knockout! Paramount has restored this 80s hit to its full aural blazing glory. The 5.1 mix applied results in what is easily one of the best audio presentations of any movie from the 80s on DVD, without a doubt! Everything ranging from the frequent music, be it the Harold Faltermeyer score or the numerous songs on the soundtrack (Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins has never sounded better!). The aerial scenes are a pure blast, providing strong dynamic range. Lastly, dialogue delivery is super clear.

Features ***

The disc includes a commentary track with Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott & Naval Experts. Also featured are four Music Videos: Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone", Berlin's "Take My Breath Away", Loverboy's "Heaven In Your Eyes", and "The Top Gun Anthem" performed by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens. Lastly, there are several TV Spots. There is also a bonus CD of 80s music.

Summary:

Top Gun remains a pivotal piece of high powered moviemaking from the 1980s. It showcases the charisma of a young Tom Cruise and the visual power of director Tony Scott in one of his earliest directing gigs. The result is a movie that is formulaic as can be, but nevertheless engaging and very enjoyable.

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