Latest posts by Ash Isaac (see all)
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Ah, unrequited love. Is there any other kind? Top Gun is a sizzling homoerotic thriller that explores the lives and loves of a group of elite naval aviators causing fireworks both in the air and on the ground. Tom Cruise manages to pull off playing the sexually confused renegade Navy pilot, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, as he is torn between competing love interests and the race to be recognised as the finest fighter pilot in the Navy.
Maverick is brash, arrogant and reckless; all qualities that make him an effective if erratic pilot. His partner/navigator is the high-spirited and amiable Nick “Goose” Bradshaw. Yes, everyone in Top Gun has a “call-sign”, a nickname that functions as much cooler middle name than the one your parents chose for you. For example, Maverick’s real middle name is Norbert. Maverick and Goose are in a platonic relationship, but it’s clear from the offset that Goose would like them to be more than just friends. To further complicate matters, Maverick and Goose are awarded highly coveted places in Top Gun, a school reserved for the best pilots in the Navy to come and improve their skills.
On their first day at Top Gun, Maverick locks eye with Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer) across a crowded debriefing room which is the cue for their unresolved sexual tension throughout the rest of the film. Iceman is everything Maverick is not: impassive, controlled, phlegmatic. Sparks immediately fly against the backdrop of their professional competitiveness. They spar regularly which mainly involves putting their faces a few inches apart and trading insults with their mouths and suggestive looks with their eyes. This takes place in the classroom, in the showers, showing off their bronzed and toned bodies whilst playing volleyball; all the usual hangout spots.
Goose tries to offer his charms up to Maverick as well and it becomes obvious to Maverick that he must make a choice between the safe, homely and reliable Goose and the alluring but ruthless Iceman. To distract himself from his internal wrangling, Maverick takes a slight heterosexual detour with Kelly McGillis who plays Charlie, one of the instructors at the Top Gun facility. Then, tragedy strikes. Goose is killed in a training flight accident and the distraught Maverick can do nothing but cradle his fallen comrade’s head in his hands and curse the gods above for this cruel twist of fate.
Goose’s death sends Maverick into a downward spiral and his crippling survivor’s guilt renders him unable to function as a fighter pilot, threatening his place not only at Top Gun, but also his career as an aviator. Iceman offers words of condolence to Maverick for Goose’s loss, but even this show of sympathy and solidarity is not enough to rouse Maverick from his malaise. In the end, it’s up to Maverick to find the courage from within himself to get back in the saddle and do what he does best: grabbing hold of the stick between his legs and throttling down on it until things start exploding. The film’s climax sees Maverick undergoing yet another personal crisis of confidence, but again he summons up the requisite gumption to overcome this and rescue Iceman from a seemingly intractable dog-fight when they are surrounded and outnumbered by enemy fighters. The two pilots cruise back together and land in tandem on their aircraft carrier where they are greeted with scenes of jubilation and celebration. Iceman and Maverick finally express their true feelings for one another and embrace amidst all the other carousing.
In the film’s final poignant scene, Maverick casts Goose’s dog-tags into the ocean thereby exorcising to some extent the demons that had tormented him during the love triangle. There’s a lot of testosterone in Top Gun; you can see it saturating the faces of the cast as they duel endlessly, spurred on by a strict diet of machismo and one-upmanship. As they like to say though, they’re all playing for the same team and any personal hang-ups or reservations are left back in the locker room and not taken up into their workspace of the stratosphere and beyond. Top Gun remains an iconic and groundbreaking testament to the power of love, Corinthian spirit and the importance of never, ever, ever leaving your wingman.