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Top Gun takes a look at the danger and excitement that awaits every pilot at the Navy's prestigious fighter weapons school. Maverick Mitchell is a daring young flyer who's out to become the best of the best.
For more about Top Gun and the Top Gun Blu-ray release, see Top Gun Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 16, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside
Director: Tony Scott
» See full cast & crew
Top Gun Blu-ray Review
This high-flying Blu-ray needs to be a part of every collection!
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 16, 2008
There are no points for second place.
When you talk about the most exciting, most influential, most widely-seen, most widely recognized, most ingrained into pop culture, most quoted, and most cherished films of the 1980s, Top Gun is one of only a few that fit every single one of those talking points. While I believe Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando to be the quintessential 1980s action movie, I concede that Tom Cruise's Top Gun is perhaps the most decade-defining film, period. The film embodied everything 1980s: the "need for speed," an incredibly successful soundtrack that epitomized 1980s music, and served as a showcase of American aerial might and superiority as the Cold War drew to a close. Top Gun also paved the way for Tom Cruise (Risky Business) to become one of the hottest and most widely-recognized stars Hollywood has ever seen, action or otherwise. With its death-defying aerial stunts, memorable characters, quotable moments, high-flying soundtrack, and plenty of first-rate action, Top Gun remains one of the most popular films even today, some 22 years after its initial release to theaters.
Tom Cruise is Maverick, a brash, self-important, risk-taking ace fighter pilot stationed aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. When he, his wingman, Goose (Anthony Edwards, TV's "ER") and two other pilots -- Merlin and Cougar -- engage two enemy MiG jet fighters, Cougar "loses his edge" during the confrontation and turns in his wings, leaving Maverick and Goose as the only candidates remaining worthy of sending to the Navy's elite Fighter Weapons School, "Top Gun," much to the chagrin of their commanding officer, Stinger (James Tolkan, Back to the Future). There, Maverick and Goose strut their stuff and compete for the illustrious position as top flight tandem, up against the likes of the cool, calm, collected, and first-class pilot Iceman (Val Kilmer, The Doors). Under the guidance of hardened veteran pilots Viper (Tom Skerritt, A River Runs Through It) and Jester (Michael Ironside, Starship Troopers), Maverick and the other pilots learn what it takes to rank among America's elite Aces, but Maverick finds himself dealing with other issues, including the specter of his father (himself a former pilot), his rash and sometimes foolish decisions in the air, and a burgeoning romance with one of his instructors, Charlie (Kelly McGillis, Witness).
Although Top Gun is awash in cinematic convention, the film overcomes its shortcomings thanks to its impressive aerial stunts and photography, fast-paced action and direction from Tony Scott (Crimson Tide), and likable if not stereotypical characters. Produced by the formidable tandem of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, a duo who has brought us some of the finest pure action movies in recent memory, including Bad Boys, the aforementioned Crimson Tide, and The Rock, the film propelled both the producers and its star to unfathomed heights and paved the way for director Tony Scott to make a name for himself and stand alongside, rather than under, brother Ridley's enormous shadow, whose successes before Tony's breakthrough hit Top Gun included Alien, Blade Runner, and Legend (also starring Tom Crusie).
While the quality of the various flying maneuvers and combat sequences in the film speak for themselves, it's truly the fantastic ensemble cast that lifts Top Gun out of the realm of "pretty and loud" to "serious action movie." While nearly every character and their motivations are derived from the prototypical caricatures of such individuals, the actor's handling of the material, not to mention the charm and charisma each brings to the project, is the driving force behind Top Gun's success. In arguably his most famous role, Tom Cruise truly portrays his character's nickname, Maverick, a hotshot on the surface but a soul-in-crisis on the inside. He pushes the limits of smart flying and risks it all for his own glory, but learns from his mistakes and pushes forward through life's toughest obstacles both in the cockpit and on the ground as he struggles to be his best, which just might mean making more self-sacrifices than he'd like. Tom Skerritt's mentor/father figure character (Viper) is the foil to Cruise's, a level-headed team player who's become the best at what he does through the opposite approach of the Maverick character. The story, at heart, deals with the relationship between these two individuals and the melding of Maverick's uncanny ability to fly instinctively and on the edge with Viper's unparalleled textbook approach, culminating with a touching scene where the two's respect for one another is established. All other secondary characters are entertaining and perfectly cast in their own right, including Val Kilmer and James Tolkan, a personal favorite.
Top Gun Blu-ray, Video Quality
Top Gun soars onto Blu-ray in a 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer that is of very good, but not exceptional, quality. Detail, clarity, and color is obviously better than any home video presentation I've seen yet. I never owned Top Gun on DVD as I held onto a nice LaserDisc edition that sported a widescreen transfer and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but this image is vastly superior to that and shows considerable detail and clarity that made much of the movie like seeing it for the first time. I never noticed the beads of sweat on the pilot's faces at the beginning of the movie, for example, and we can see the lines in the finely-pressed uniforms and read the instrument panels inside the fighter jets. However, there is a lack of clarity and sharpness in these scenes as well. The entire first sequence of the movie, both on board the aircraft carrier and in the air, is rather drab. The image is a just a bit dark in both the cockpit and in Stinger's office afterwards. In fact, much of the semi-dark, perhaps better considered hazy, nature of many shots in the movie obscures a bit of detail, but this Blu-ray does a fine job of rendering its image rather well nevertheless. Flesh tones can appear pink or red on occasion. Softness is never much of an issue except in flat, nearly mono-color backgrounds, but foreground detail is generally strong and lifelike. The disc does do justice to the amazing aerial combat sequences, notably the first one where cameras are placed on the fuselage or wings of the jets and the resulting imagery shows some amazing shots that, frankly, don't sparkle, but manage to wow viewers nevertheless with their impressive visuals. The print exhibits some minor black and white pops and speckles and dirt throughout. Black levels are solid but unspectacular, though there aren't many scenes that call for deep, dark blacks anyway. I did note some pixelation in one of the shots of the sky in an aerial sequence. While Top Gun isn't as spiffy as I had hoped, the transfer is a generally impressive one that is as a remarkable leap in quality from my old standby LaserDisc edition.
Top Gun Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Paramount sends Top Gun to Blu-ray with two lossless audio options: a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track as well as a DTS-HD MA 6.1 mix. I screened the film with the DTS track to take advantage of the added channel, and was immediately impressed with the results. Right from the get-go, we hear the film's title sequence theme mixed with a marvelous heavy breeze that blows across the flight deck as the sound of jet engines heating up play alongside. Then, as radio and flight deck chatter crop up in the rear channels, we're instantly transported to the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. All of a sudden, the jet's engines ignite; the $30 million machine shoots off into the sky with the push of jet engine propulsion and the aid of a slingshot, and Kenny Loggin's "Danger Zone" instantly ignites your speakers on-fire for a moment that had me grinning into overdrive. When Maverick, Goose, Cougar, and Merlin engage the MiGs at the beginning of the film, there is an awesome sense of wonder in the sonic department as the fighters fly all around the listening area seamlessly. Bass rattles your chest form both the roar of the jet engines and the pulsating music that accompanies the drama that unfolds after the confrontation. Imaging is excellent and the sounds of jet fighters literally swarm your listening area and flow from one speaker to the next in an effortless symphony of modern technological delight. Surrounds are active for the entirety of the movie, demonstrating the track's superiority from both the more mundane (including the "live" performance of "Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "Lead Me On" in chapter four, and "Playing With the Boys" in the famous volleyball scene) and to the extraordinary, where we experience the feel of having jet fighters encircle and pass through the media room, and the experience is heightened when machine gun fire penetrates the skies and shoots across the sky in the movie and our room at home in the final battle of the movie. While Top Gun's lossless tracks lack the sparkle and definition of the modern action movie soundtrack, the source material is exquisitely reproduced here and is the best you'll ever hear the movie sound.
Top Gun Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Top Gun engages Blu-ray with an exceptional supplemental package that doesn't look like much on the surface but proves to be both in-depth and fascinating nevertheless. Flying point for this great squadron of supplements is a packed commentary track with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Tony Scott, co-screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr., Captain Mike Galpin, technical advisor Pete Pettigrew, and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe. Tony Scott starts things off and discusses how he was fired from the project not once, not twice, but three times. Bruckheimer pops up next, obviously disjointed and recorded separately from Scott. Nevertheless, he's entertaining and provides some basic information on the background of the film and the origins of the story that is fascinating in its own right. Jim Epps follows Bruckheimer, and delves right into the aerial imagery seen in the movie, and as soon as we get interesting in what he is saying, Scott returns to the track. That's the feel of the whole thing, interested yet disjointed. Galpin, Pettigrew, and McCabe do join the proceedings as a trio and point out numerous technical inaccuracies, liberties taken by the film to entertain, and other interesting tidbits that make for the most fascinating listen in the track. Despite the haphazard style of the track, the information to glean here is first-rate and the track is a recommended listen.
Danger Zone: The Making of 'Top Gun' (480p, 2:27:42) is an extraordinary six-part documentary. The Making of 'Top Gun' From the Ground Up Pre-Production (480p, 29:59) is first, focusing, obviously, on the build-up to the beginning of the shoot, rehashing much of the information heard early in the commentary track, but fleshed out in more detail here (replete with plenty of behind-the-scenes visuals). Playing with the Boys Production: Land and Sea (480p, 26:40) focuses on the the separate production stages of the film, including the dramatic scenes on land and sea. Cast members recount the party atmosphere of the set, the deliberate lack of camaraderie between Cruise and Kilmer off-camera, the volleyball sequence, the difficulty of performing a nighttime landing on an aircraft carrier, and more. The Need For Speed Production: Air (480p, 28:26) looks at the film's fantastic aerial sequences, including concerns for the safety of the pilots flying at a lower-than-normal altitudes, the cameras used for the shoot, and the maneuvers the craft needed to make, among many other fascinating tidbits. Back to Basics Visual Effects (480p, 17:09) is a more in-depth look at the "documentary realism" the filmmakers were shooting for, the things the U.S. Navy would and would not permit the filmmakers to do, the various models seen throughout, and more. Combat Rock: The Music of Top Gun (480p, 21:31) is a piece as exciting as the soundtrack itself, providing an in-depth background not only to the popular music heard throughout the film, but examines the film's anthem and the contributions of composer Harold Faltermeyer. Finally, Afterburn Release and Impact (480p, 23:55) examines the film's initial poor test screenings that confused audiences, re-working dialogue for the combat scenes, the reaction of real-life pilots to the film, and other fascinating nuggets of information.
Moving along, Multi-Angle Storyboards showcases two sequences from the film: Flat Spin (480p, 4:02) and Jester's Dead (480p, 2:53). Viewers can watch the sequence from the film above the original storyboard, or press the "angle" button on their remotes to see the storyboard full-screen. Optional commentary by director Tony Scott is available on both segments. Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun (480p, 28:46) is a high-quality documentary on the inner-workings and history of the real-life facility that trains America's finest aviators. Finally, a "vintage gallery" offers a nice assortment of minor extras. The set begins with four music videos: Danger Zone (480p, 3:56), the Oscar-winning Take My Breath Away (480p, 4:30), Heaven In Your Eyes (480p, 4:05), and the Top Gun Anthem (480p, 4:25) with Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens. Seven vintage television spots (480p, 3:46 total runtime) are next. Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (480p, 5:30), is more vintage material, this time showcasing clips from the film mixed in with an interview with Simpson and Bruckheimer. Survival Training Featurette (480p, 7:30) focuses on the training the actors underwent to keep them safe should they have to eject from their plane. Last but not least, an interview with star Tom Cruise (480p, 6:42) concludes this all-encompassing set of supplements.
Top Gun Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Reviewing a film like Top Gun isn't easy. Most everyone, particularly most people like you and me who read movie and Blu-ray websites regularly, has seen the film and formed an opinion on it, and as a 20+ year-old movie, there isn't much to say that hasn't already been said. Nonetheless, the film is a personal favorite of mine, and while I hadn't seen it in some time, screening the Blu-ray edition that Paramount delivered this morning was like seeing and hearing the film again for the first time. While the video quality is not on par with the cleanest, most polished high definition transfers on the market, the source material looks very good in 1080p, and I regret not being able to view it on a larger screen as the movie practically cries out for large screens. With two lossless audio options, a nice treat for those Blu-ray fans still without the ability to decode DTS-HD MA, the movie sounds fantastic. It's an awesome experience and blows out of the water the various stereo and other lossy versions I've heard so many times over the years on VHS and LaserDisc. Perhaps the crowning jewel of this package is the supplements. I was impressed to say the least, and anything and everything you ever wanted to know about Top Gun is included. I'm thrilled to have this movie on Blu-ray, and it comes highly recommended!
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