Alexandra Berardelli ’25
Maverick might have flown high and low at lightning speeds, but Tom Cruise won’t be flying anywhere at the Oscars this year. Top Gun: Maverick (Dir. Joseph Kosinski), hit the box office and took the spot for the second-highest grossing movie of 2022. It takes place more than 30 years after Peter “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) graduated from the Navy’s top-tier Top Gun program. Even though Maverick has a track record of pulling all the stops, his peers and authorities continually attack his recklessness. When he is invited back to Top Gun, he is confronted with a seemingly unachievable mission. In an intense training sequence, Maverick finds himself not only in a battle to accomplish the mission but an emotional battle to deal with the Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his old wingman, Goose (Anthony Edwards). For many personal and professional reasons, this mission is an ultimate sacrifice for Maverick.
The action-packed film received six nominations, including Best Picture, but its leading man, Tom Cruise, did not land a nomination for Best Lead Actor. Despite being nominated for an Academy Award three times before, Tom Cruise has yet to snatch an Oscar. While much of Tom Cruise’s acting career has been composed of action-packed films, impressing the audience with his own stunts, this movie elicits something genuinely refreshing. Compared to the first film, Top Gun, the sequel is just as full of action but feeds into Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick’s inner fears and desires. I propose that Tom Cruise brought the total package: exceptional physical skill and a newfound emotional connection with the audience.
While the leading actors nominated are concentrated on telling an authentic story, which they accomplished skillfully and beautifully, Tom Cruise does the same on top of his unbelievable stunts. When so much action is happening, he must supplement unmatched energy into his acting more than ever. Tom Cruise certainly accomplishes this during the twists and turns in his F-18 fighter jet. And, when he’s safe on the ground with his crew, he truly understands who Maverick is. Even though the action-packed scenes make the movie exciting, there are still scenes that Tom Cruise skillfully executes as a master of the craft. One particular scene drives home Tom Cruise’s premier acting as Maverick: the homecoming with Iceman.
As Maverick deals with many self-doubts concerning his mission, teaching, and relationship with Rooster, his old friend and former competitor, Iceman (Val Kilmer), asks to speak with him. This ends up being an incredibly emotional scene between the two friends as Iceman, and in reality, Val Kilmer has a form of throat cancer, limiting his vocal abilities. Between the two films, this is the ultimate climax for Tom Cruise’s grasp of Maverick’s character development.
As Maverick catches a glimpse of Iceman, he sets up an emotional encounter, as he doesn’t come off as the typical Maverick we all know. Here, he begins more like a friend. But, before he finds out why Iceman wants him there, we see the Maverick we’re familiar with: fearless, straightforward, and a timeless Naval professional. Due to his condition, Iceman can not easily speak, which Tom Cruise must’ve taken into account when working with his longtime friend. Here, we evidently see a shift in character from this serious and mission-driven Maverick to someone who admits the unknown and the inability to let go. It takes real skill for an actor to commit to such a persona, being tough and driven all the time and then convincing the audience that deep down, they don’t have it all figured out. Tom Cruise demonstrates that he can do both, setting up the remainder of the film with this newfound understanding of what it means to be Maverick, a teacher, a friend, or a wingman. Not to mention that Tom Cruise insistently said that he would not do the sequel without Val Kilmer as Iceman, which is all-around a beautiful sentiment.
Tom Cruise might have said he is a fighter pilot, but his emotional response shares the internal conflict within Maverick. With tears flowing down my and Tom Cruise’s faces, he opened the doors of Maverick’s seemingly strict heart to everyone. It takes a great deal of emotional consideration from Tom Cruise to tap into his connection with his character and share a different side of himself. And so, when I consider someone nominated for best actor, it implies that they have a grasp of their character like it’s their own persona. Based on this personal perception, Tom Cruise would undoubtedly fit for a nomination.
Tom Cruise is Top Gun: Maverick and doesn’t evidently make this film about flying fighter jets or completing the mission. It’s about something more, which Tom Cruise so elegantly articulates through his acting. You can tell this is deep down in his soul, and the scene with Iceman sets it up in the long run. Tom Cruise, being able to understand this part of Maverick and so beautifully rely on this for the audience, shows that he is a master of the craft. Say what you will about Top Gun: Maverick: that it is purely entertaining because of the action, but Tom Cruise has seriously shown tremendous growth as an actor, even coming back to his character even after so many years.
Tom Cruise might have been snubbed of a solo Oscar nomination, but I believe Top Gun: Maverick has an excellent shot for at least one award, even Best Picture. The third time might be a charm for Tom Cruise and Maverick if they’re on track to make a third movie. You can tune into the 95th Academy Awards this year on March 12, 2023. Naturally, I’ll be rooting for Top Gun: Maverick.
For more Oscar Nominations: https://variety.com/2023/film/news/oscar-nominations-2023-list-1235495072/
Photo courtesy of IMDb
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