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On May 16, 1986, Paramount unveiled the Tom Cruise jet-fighter thriller Top Gun in theaters, where it would become a summer smash and gross $176 million stateside. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Top Gun is the Navy euphemism for the U.S. Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, the training center for its elite of elite fighter pilots. Top Movie might be the trade euphemism for this certain summer blockbuster from producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer.
Top Gun has all the earmarks of being the biggest grosser since the same duo produced Beverly Hills Cop.
Essentially a fictional process film — showing how pilots get through the grueling/dueling training sessions — Top Gun additionally should tap into the upsurge of popular sentiment regarding the Navy’s recent successes in the Mediterranean.
Tom Cruise stars as Maverick, a brash and mega-talented fighter ace whose personal duels sometimes interfere with his flying. Confidence is not his problem — if this guy were a quarterback, he’d be Jim McMahon. In his sights is a stunning astrophysicist (Kelly McGillis) who’s his instructor and a rival ace (Val Kilmer) who’s unbeatable.
Undeniably the star of this sizzling production, however, are the technical credits and the direction of Tony Scott. Dog-fighting segments are strictly edge-of-the-seaters — immediate repeat business seems likely in the Star Wars manner.
Supervisor of special photographic effects Gary Gutierrez, along with aerial coordinator Dick Stevens and Top Gun Commander Bob Willard deserve highest praise for their full-blown action sequences. The high-flying fight choreography is sensational, and director Scott’s shrewd use of subjective shots literally puts one in the cockpit.
Equally involving is the sound work, giving one the feeling of being deckside next to a screeching F-14. Sound supervising editors, Cecelia Hall and George Waters II, as well as the entire sound crew, deserve a thumbs up for their contribution.
The film’s intensity mirrors the competitive and wild personalities of the pilots themselves. In this arena, the casting is on-target. Cruise is terrific as the prima donna sky star, charming and egocentric. Kilmer as the Iceman, the top ace is convincingly cool and controlled — in the best of gunslinger traditions. As the love interest, talented McGillis is well-cast and believable, while Tom Skerritt lends the right understanding and edge to his instructor role.
In supporting roles, Rick Rossovich (whose brother Tim was a linebacker at USC and chewed glass as pranks) lends the requisite loony, competitive edge to his preening young pilot role. An additional standout is Anthony Edwards as Cruise’s more level-headed but fun-loving partner.
Brimming with humor and fast-paced action, Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr.’s script veers toward the pat side, but for all the right commercial reasons.
Other technical crew members serving with distinction: Jeffrey Kimball (director of photography); John F. DeCuir Jr. (production designer); Billy Weber, Chris Lebenzon (editors); and Virginia Cook, Teri Dorman, Julia Evershade, Frank Howard, Marshall Winn and David Stone (sound editors). — Duane Byrge, originally published on May 9, 1986
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