A good story offers a momentary escape from reality so that we may be thrust back into it with a more keen sense of the greatness for which we are made. Top Gun: Maverick is one of these stories, and one I anticipate will continue to reverberate throughout the entirety of my being and capture my imagination for quite some time.
I experienced this cinematic event for the first time on Saturday night, and quickly made plans to see it the following day. However, as I sat reflecting on the film Sunday morning, I got this sense that Maverick, Rooster, and the whole cohort of Top Gun pilots would urge me to hold off. Don’t try so quickly to again escape reality, they might say, stay in it. We didn’t become the best there is by watching movies all day. Be great yourself, instead.
In reading some reviews of the film last night, A. O. Scott of The New York Times praised the movie as “an earnest statement of the thesis that movies can and should be great.” I wholeheartedly agree, and the burning within me confirms the power of such films. At the time of writing this, it has been 19 hours since I watched Tom Cruise reprise his role as Maverick. I have since spent the vast majority of my waking hours thinking about him and the rest of the characters in whose stories I wish desperately to take part. Whatever they have, I want it, and although something profoundly desirable is present, it is of the “I know not what” variety.
The Shared Mission In Top Gun: Maverick
Perhaps it’s the comradery, and the way every character – in one way or another – turns out to be an essential piece in the success of their shared mission. “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Cor 12:20).
It could also be their determination to be the best and their commitment to pursue that thing which sets their hearts on fire.
Or maybe it’s the way they live the art of risk, pushing boundaries on what is safe, almost as if to say, “You think this is impossible? Let me show you what’s possible… or die trying.”
What about their familiarity with the demands of flying and all that goes with it? “Don’t think, just do.” Indeed we must strive for such a habituation toward the good that it becomes our immediate response.
Or is it the juxtaposition of the unmanned drone and the creativity and instinct of the pilot? Advancements in technology are valuable, but it’s ultimately the human soul, the image and inscription of Christ, which is of the most significant value. In other words, “it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.”
How about the way Iceman encourages Maverick to let go of the past and surrender the power it has over him? The pain of past decisions has kept him from loving the people right in front of him for far too long. He must overcome his fear of losing those he loves in order to courageously love those he might lose. As we hear in the first letter of Saint John, “perfect love casts out all fear.”
Lastly, I wonder if what contributes to the power of this movie is, rather simply, the happy ending. Everyone makes it home, and this is not for a lack of great sacrifice, but in fact precisely because of it. That is the type of journey for which we all long: not one where there is no pain or loss, sacrifice or suffering, but where through it all, we arrive in the homeland for which we are destined.
Top Gun: Maverick is a great story, and it could be due to any combination of the thoughts above, or other ones entirely. I can’t quite put my finger on it, this sense of the Divine, of Beauty, of the Eternal Logos, Jesus Christ. Though I suppose it doesn’t quite matter what we term it, for one truth is clear: here in this movie, the things of heaven are wed to those of earth. I don’t know about you, but it is stories such as these which draw me into the Mystery, and beckon me toward its fulfillment in my heavenly homeland.
Image: http://www.impawards.com/2022/top_gun_maverick_ver5.html, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70039658