Top Gun 30th Anniversary Review
Director: Tony Scott.
I can't believe it's the 30th anniversary of Top Gun, the classic eighties high flyer that basically made Tom Cruise the superstar he is today. Produced by the famous partnership of the late Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the powerhouse of action blockbusters with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop on their roster. It was a major success and the highest grossing film of '86 after Crocodile Dundee raking in $353 million worldwide.
This is a massive guilty pleasure of mine for so many reasons. I was in the states when I was nine or ten years old when I first saw Top Gun, the film already a few years old. It showed me quite the many things for the first time, such as friendship and emotional loss, something I relate to very much now suffering loss myself, the scenes after Goose cut me up even more now. The erotic romance between Kelly McGillis and Cruise, I still claim to be one of the most sensual kissing scenes in movie history. I think some people forget it's a love story, or one of the first actioners that had a romantic interest. The seduction between the two was alluring for me but actually ironic as its reported the two stars never got on. Awkward.
This was also the late Tony Scott's major breakthrough which paved the way for glossy, vibrant actioners like Days of Thunder and The Last Boy Scout. David Cronenberg and John Carpenter were also considered to direct but it was a Saab advert TS directed that got him in the director's chair.
And what a finished accomplishment it is, having some of the best aviation filming ever to be caught on camera, and you have to acknowledge this was before the era of CGI and GoPro cams. The filming was so good the US Navy actually launched an investigation around some of the missile scenes where the crew used miniature models and rockets for additional scenes as they were only permitted two real 'shots.'
Tom Cruise had starred in Tony's bigger brother, Ridley Scott's Legend the previous year, where he first met Tony Scott on set. Cruise was reluctant to take the role of Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell and it was offered to Matthew Modine who refused and John Travolta was asking too much, especially after his recent flops. Many more A-list actors were considered and offered the role, most refusing due to glorifying war and Cruise was always the one they wanted. Bruckheimer sent Cruise up in an F-15 and according to him, this is what happened. "So they take Tom up there they do five Gs. They do barrel rolls, they do everything. He's heaving in the plane. He gets on the tarmac, runs to a pay phone... and he said, 'I'm in. I'm doing the movie. I love it. This is great.'"
Now Cruise, by now is know for being an adrenaline junkie, performing many of his own stunts much to the disagreement of fellow directors and produces, like John Woo. He's now know for his motorcycle skills, especially from the M:I films, but believe it or not, Cruise had never ridden a motorcycle until Top Gun and was taught in the House of Motorcycles' car park. The bike Maverick rides was a Kawasaki GPz900 'Ninja' which was at the time the fastest production bike on the legal road.
As with Maverick, many stars were considered for the role of Charlie, the civilian flight instructor who is based on Christine 'Legs' Fox who incidentally got promoted to acting Deputy Secretary of Defence back in 2013/14. Jodie Foster, Daryl Hannah and Linda Hamilton all turned down the role of Charlie, even Carrie Fisher was considered. The studio actually wanted an unknown to play part so it finally went to Kelly McGillis after seeing her in Witness. Personally, I think Daryl Hannah would have been amazing.
Putting the other actors to one side for the moment, the other leading stars of the film are the Grumman F-14 Tomcats, the sweep-wing, twin engine, air superiority fighter/interceptors. An impressive and yes, expensive piece of aircraft. Of course the US Navy flew both, the Tomcats and The Northeop F-5 Tigers which doubled as MIGs in the film. Notably pilot Scott Altman who later went on to be an astronaut at NASA. Another pilot was the older man McGillis appears to be dating at the beginning of the film in the bar, who was the real life 'Viper' Pete Pettigrew, a Vietnam fighter pilot, a TOP GUN instructor and a technical advisor for the film. Out of respect to him, they changed Maverick's real name from Evan Mitchell to Pete.
It's an all-star cast today of relative unknowns back then, with maybe Tom Skerritt being the only main stream name playing Viper which nearly went to Jon Voight or Louis Gossett Jr. who ironically went on the star as a mentor in the less successful high-flyer Iron Eagle released in the same year.
Anthony Edwards plays Maverick's crew partner, Goose who, **SPOILER ALERT** unfortunately has a fatal accident when ejecting from a flat spinning jet. Just a side fact about ejector seats in jets; they blow with enough power to launch you high enough to deploy your parachute from ground, now that's some rocket you're sitting on. Mr. Daniel's was the only cast member not to puke during jet flights. Him and screen wife Meg Ryan actually hooked up during and after Top Gun, this also being her big break.
Val Kilmer didn't actually want to be in this film but was forced due to contractual obligations; and as Ice Man, the perfect pilot, I actually agreed with him in most cases, not sharing the rebellious heroics, proving bravery and stupidity share a very thin line. He ad-libbed "bullshit" when Maverick was explaining his near impossible inverted flight above a Mig. His character actually isn't that bad a person when you think about it.
The script was quite corny but good corny especially with James Tolkan's character, Stinger reprimanding the careless duo, who's probably better remembered for playing Mr. Strickland from the Back To The Future saga. Cruise actually forgot his lines, where Charlie declares her love for him after their little road chase. Cruise was suppose to respond with a line but forgot and just kissed her instead. TS loved it and kept it in the movie.
Stern actor Michael Ironside was so convincing as an officer it was common for sailors to slow down in corridors and salute him. Where as Rick Rossovich who played Ice Man's rear, Slider, was kicked off the ship for disrespecting a sailor, something to do with swapping bunks and not wanting to sleep next to the nuclear reactors that fuelled the ship. And let's not forget Tim Robbins playing Merlin, an unknown back then and look how far he's come.
When looking back at it, I sometimes think Backdraft or Black Rain were my first soundtracks I ever purchased but no, I actually owed the Top Gun soundtrack on cassette all those years ago which only included the songs originally written for the film so there was no Otis Redding, no Righteous Brothers or Jerry Lee Lewis on the album until 2000 when the special edition was released on CD (I bought it of course.) I use to ride my BMX listening to the tape on my Walkman. It was a superb soundtrack with cult tracks "Danger Zone" and "Playing With The Boys" by Kenny Loggins, Larry Greene's "Through The Fire" and of course the Oscar winning one hit wonder "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin.
There were a few other tracks that the studio tried to acquire for the film but it didn't happen for various reasons, Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA" Judas Priest's "Reckless" Bryan Adams' "Only The Strong Survive." Harold Faltermeyer's score was never released as a sole album and instead, only a couple of tracks are on the special edition, the Top Gun anthem and "Memories." I don't believe "Memories" was on the original cassette soundtrack. It was an original score, perfect for the film and one of my best friends learnt the anthem on his guitar.
Off the back of the film, the US Navy had recruitment stalls at cinema screenings of the film which resulted in the highest application rate for years, a 500% increase. Who didn't want to be Maverick after watching Top Gun? (I'm probably more of a Goose character, or maybe even Ice Man but the narcissistic part of me make me want to be Mav.) Apparently there's a five dollar fine at the real Top Gun school for quoting the movie. It spurred the spoof Hot Shots!, even a clever rant from Quentin Tarantino in Sleep With Me, but it's the coming sequel which was written soon after the release of Top Gun but Cruise refused to until now. Little is known about the sequel but rumour has it, it's about drone warfare.
It's a classic movie for so many reasons, will always remain one of my 'must see' and is Included in Steven Schneider's "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". Modern viewers might not fully appreciate the magic about this film, but you have to remind yourself, this is now thirty years old. Back in the eighties we would have to look back at films from the 50s, classic films like Vertigo, On The Waterfront and Rebel Without a Cause. However, admittedly, I not believe Top Gun is in the same league, but it deserves the credit and reputation is it receives. I wonder if Tom Cruise looks back and thinks "wow... Thirty years!!"
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for the aerial cinematography and inspiring many to want to be a fighter pilot.
The film is dedicated to Art Scholl who was a stunt pilot for the film and died due to a crash during production, his body or plane never was never found and the cause of the accident was never determined.
#TonyScott #TomCruise #KellyMcGillis #ValKilmer #AnthonyEdwards #MegRyan #TomSkerritt #MichaelIronside #RickRossovich #TimRobbins #JamesTolkan #JohnStockwell #DonSimpson #JerryBruckheimer #HaroldFaltermeyer