Tom Cruise goes Maverick in this astonishing spectacle

Viewed through the prism of all that followed, the first Top Gun film looks oddly dated now, but at the time it was a game changer, instrumental in bringing the vitality and economy of advertising to the leviathan of cinema in the eighties. In this unlikely sequel, director by Joseph Kosinski was faced with the challenge of staying true to the spirit of that first outing, while bringing the visuals and sensibilities bang up to date. It was a task star Tom Cruise aptly described as hitting a speeding bullet with another speeding bullet.

Within minutes of the opening credits, Cruise’s Maverick is recalled to train his (not so) raw recruits, as they prepare for a preposterously impossible mission against an undefined, and unambiguously evil, foreign power. It’s a plot straight out of the Saturday morning pictures playbook, and his class of wise-cracking students are little more than cyphers, but it rather misses the point to take issue with this. The film is all about spectacle and comforting moral certainties. There are nods along the way to Maverick’s, and by implication Cruise’s, age but he still manages to be indecently handsome and fit for duty.

It’s good to see, for once, the inclusion of Jennifer Connolly’s age appropriate love interest, and Val Kilmer pops up touchingly in a scene that hints at the weightier film this could have been. Ed Harris and Jon Hamm are given less to do, but acquit them admirably, while the younger cast members jostle for recognition as assuredly as the characters they play. The real stars of the film, however, are the planes and the astonishing set-piece action scenes that really need to be seen on the big screen to properly appreciate. It’s all nonsense, of course, but at one point Maverick says to one of his recruits – don’t think, just do. The same goes for the film – don’t think, just watch.