Brett’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Hi everybody and welcome to Top Gun: Maverick," Tom Cruise tells audiences in a brief pre-movie introduction. "...Our incredible cast and crew worked very hard to bring you the most immersive and authentic film experience we could. There's real F-18s, real Gs, real speed..."
"Top Gun: Maverick" is a movie where our heroes are trying to start World War III. The US military is selecting pilots for a bombing run over an Iranian nuclear facility near completion, one which was built "in violation" of an internationally-recognized treaty. This, of course, is the exact opposite of what happened in real life: the US violated the JCPOA agreement with Iran, and the Iranian government continued to obey it even when we no longer were.
At no point in this two-hour monstrosity is it ever mentioned that the Iranians would strike back instantly, sinking the aircraft carrier that Cruise took off from and beginning a war that would annihilate millions of innocent lives. In fact, from the perspective of international law, the Iranian government would be in the right to do so, as Tom Cruise just executed an illegal and unconstitutional act of war on a foreign power without congressional approval. If every single one of our plucky heroes had died during their training montages, it would have made the world a safer place.
Like all successful fascist narratives, this movie portrays our enemies as simultaneously all-powerful and extremely weak. To craft a story where our ludicrously overfunded heroes can be underdogs, it is necessary to pretend that Iran has "advanced 5th generation fighters" which are superior to US capabilities; this is brought up repeatedly regardless of how absurd it is. Yet when our heroes are actually in Iran, all of their pilots have the aim of a blind man. Tom Cruise survives a .50 caliber machine gun right in front of him by taking cover behind a dead log. The .50 caliber bullet is designed to penetrate an armored truck engine.
The real-life political situation that the plot focuses on— one which most Americans already misunderstand without needing this movie's help— is incorporated into a plot so stuffed with cliches, saccharine romance, and callbacks to the original "Top Gun" that it seems as though the entire edifice may collapse under its own weight. Sadly, it does not.
Even if one can ignore the rabidly bloodthirsty nature of this movie, it is still absolute garbage. The morals of this story are, and I am not exaggerating in the slightest: soldiers should ignore orders to stand down, and you should take actions without thinking about them. Our heroes follow these lessons throughout the story and are constantly rewarded for it. It is a child's understanding of bravery and honor, coated in thick layers of some of the most painfully sentimental slime that Hollywood has ever produced.
But, to be clear, you should not be ignoring the politics of this film. It is not a fun blockbuster nor an escapist fantasy, but a clear and unequivocal celebration of US militarism. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the not-so-subtle way the movie talks about jets. Obviously, the aerial dogfights are the real meat of the movie. They are undeniably exciting and some of the most technically-impressive scenes of this kind ever filmed. But I couldn't help but notice something.
In the first scene of the movie, Cruise flies a jet which doesn't actually exist yet: the SR-72 "Darkstar." Later, when describing their mission, Cruise tells us that this would "usually be a cakewalk for the F-35" if not for some unusual circumstances. That's a weird thing to say: the F-35 is notorious for underperforming. All of our pilots in this movie are flying F-18s; why were both of those jets included so clearly in this movie when neither of them are plot relevant?
Because both of those jets are new products being sold to the US military by the same weapons contractor: Lockheed Martin. Lockheed was not only involved in making this movie, they are actively using it to promote their jets.
"Top Gun: Maverick" is a 131-minute long advertisement for death. Aggressively unoriginal, wildly irresponsible with its messaging, historically revisionist, and shamelessly jingoistic in the name of providing fellatio to arms dealers. This is a masterwork of propaganda in defense of some of our nation's worst traits, and it's an enormous success. I left the theater depressed and forlorn.