Top Gun (US - HD)
Scott McKenzie suddenly has the urge to take off his shirt and play volleyball...
This is where I usually kick off a review with a paragraph about the plot of the movie, but come on, you've all seen Top Gun already, haven't you? If not, why not? I realise my analysis of this movie could very easily have been written up as a guilty pleasures article rather than a proper review, but I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of in admitting my appreciation of this movie. So why is Top Gun still well-loved more than twenty years on, especially when mentioned in the same breath as other testosterone-fuelled action movies of the 80s like Die Hard and Predator?
Before the Cruiser appears on screen, it's clear that this movie has a purpose to serve other than making him look good. In order to get the aircraft footage they needed, the producers made sure the Navy was portrayed favourably and the opening credits sequence is spent making the staff working on an aircraft carrier look very cool at sunset (this is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie after all). You don't have to be an eagle-eyed viewer either to catch the posters dotted throughout the movie encouraging American viewers to join the Navy. According to IMDb, the US Navy even set up recruiting booths at cinemas that were showing the movie and significantly increased their volume of applications.
This is the movie that turned Tom Cruise from the promising young actor in Risky Business and All The Right Moves into the ultra-megastar he is today. It's no surprise either, because his performance as Maverick is larger than life and Goose's death (don't complain about the spoiler, I already told you that you should have seen it!) gives him the chance to do some proper acting. Of course, we still have the Cruiser grin to deal with but that's the price you have to pay. It's also no surprise that other members of the cast went on to bigger and better things, with welcome early appearances from Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan. Tim Robbins is listed on the credits, but blink and you'll miss him at the end of the movie.
The actors aside, the main reason to watch Top Gun is for the well-filmed and still-exciting flying sequences, especially the final showdown between the graduates of the Top Gun academy and those damn Russkies in their MiGs. If Top Gun was made now, it's more than likely that the filmmakers would have decided to go for CGI to save them time and effort on the dogfight sequences, so it's all the more impressive to see this action without any digital 'enhancements'. It's also good to go back to one of Tony Scott's early movies to see him developing his signatures that we've become used to in his movies, with slow motion, sunsets and blue love scenes to name a few.
I can't review Top Gun without addressing the subject of homoeroticism, which has gained more weight since Quentin Tarantino's speech in Sleep with Me. Watching Top Gun with this in mind does make the viewer analyse the on-screen action, especially the toing and froing between Maverick and Val Kilmer's Iceman. Even though 'wingman' has become a term related to male bonding as a result of this movie, here is could be construed as something different. Whether this is a genuine intended subtext or just the result of looking for something that isn't there, it makes Top Gun all the more interesting to watch, especially if there's a group of you looking out for these moments.
Top Gun is presented in 1080p at 2.35:1 and unless you caught it at the cinema in 1986, you won't have seen the movie looking this good. There is great detail and predictably the flying sequences are the most impressive and nothing is lost in the fast camera movements. Colours are very strong, with the bright blue of the sea and sky filling up most of the screen at times and you should definitely try to watch this movie on the biggest screen you can find. However, the picture isn't quite perfect, with occasional patches of grain but nothing so bad that it would ruin what is otherwise an excellent picture.
There are three English audio options available here: 5.1 TrueHD, 6.1 DTS-ES and 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus. I went for the TrueHD option and was very impressed. With a movie over twenty years old, there's always a danger that the print has been left to rot and revisiting it for high definition may be a bit of a letdown ( Wall Street is a prime example), but the transfer seems to have come from the master used for Paramount's cleaned-up 2005 special edition DVD. If I have any complaints, it's that the dialogue is a little quiet compared with the rest of the soundtrack, but this is a very minor nitpick. This is a loud movie and there's great use of directional sound to complement the action. Planes and missiles will be flying round the speakers in your living room, but your neighbours might just complain about the volume of Kenny Loggins blasting through your surround system.
Move along, no extras to see here.
Top Gun may be a product of its time, but it's still an entertaining and exciting movie that should be part of any action fan's movie collection. The movie looks and sounds amazing in this release, but the lack of any extras, even the contents of the 2005 special edition, makes me suspect the team at Paramount knew they'd have to put another release together somewhere down the line. If you can't wait for the eventual Blu-ray release, you should be able to pick up this HD DVD release on the cheap now that the format is on its way out.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the HD DVD release.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 2nd October 2007
Disc Type: HD DVD
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD English, Dolby Digital 6.1 DTS-ES English, Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 French, Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Easter Egg: No
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside
Length: 109 minutes
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