Kelly McGillis hoping to score some speed from Tom Cruise

A 109 minute advertisement for the United States Air Force.

All right, it is more than that, but it is important to note that (as mentioned in the commentaries) enlistments in the US Air Force went through the roof after this movie became a huge hit in the late 80’s. To counter the jingoism of this flim, after discussions with Paul Newman while making The Color Of Money, Cruse agreed to be in Born on the 4th of July.

one of the many realistic aerial sequences

But back to Top Gun – This movie is about speed (yes, and the need for it). Sure there may be some homoeroticism in it, but that’s hard to avoid when dealing with the military. With it’s power ballad soundtrack and extensive aerial footage, this is a strongly audio/visual film, though it is hard to watch it without thinking of the perfect send up of it in Hot Shots (1991).

After his poorly received directorial debt with The Hunger(1983), Ridley Scott’s younger brother Tony was a surprise choice for this blockbuster. The reason becomes clear (again, mentioned in the commentary) in his approach to the property as Pure Rock ‘n’ Roll (after his ‘Apocalypse Now on an aircraft carrier’ idea was rejected). With his experience in commercials (including the only one that the producers saw that used a jet), Scott knows how to construct a good shot. Everything that he wants shiny is. When he wants it smoky, it is and if the room needs to have a venetian blind to get just the right light, it will have.

Like a number of films where the makers have had the benefit of intervening years before revisiting it, the commentary is more interesting than those done while the emulsion is still damp on the film. The opening three minutes where Tony Scott describes how he was sacked from the film four times is the funniest opening to a commentary I can remember (or am I just cynical). It gets funny again when Bruckheimer explains how he got Tom Cruse to commit to the film by asking a favour from The Pentagon, but that is a different sort of funny.

oh Iceman, kiss me you fool

It is interesting how many talented people supposedly didn’t want to be involved in this movie. John Carpenter and David Cronenberg both declined directing it, Matthew Modine declined starring, Val Kilner tried to get out (but was locked in by contractual obligations) and Brian Adams refused to let them use one of his songs, as he felt that the film glorified war. Which it does, but the character dynamics are so generic that it could easily be a movie about football.

As well as the commentary there are four music videos, six making of’s and a variety of shorts from the time the film was made.

With a incessant electric guitar soundtrack, heaps of lens filters and camera tinting, Top Gun isn’t The Right Stuff, but it tries. If you feel the need for speed and uber-macho-ness, then join Maverick, Goose, Iceman, Radar and Hawkeye for some Rock ‘n’ Roll stars riding their shiny silver phalluses.