Our need for adventure with Maverick
“Your instructor is one of the finest pilots this program has ever produced. His exploits are legendary. What he has to teach you could mean the very difference between life and death.”
So we are introduced to Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell/Tom Cruise in the reprise of his 1986 classic Top Gun. He’s still got the jacket, the bike, the aviator shades and the need for speed.
Amazingly, should Cruise choose to run in the Ormskirk ParkRun next month, he would be in the 60-64 age group. And judging by his performance in last night’s film, he would probably beat me.
For the record, I loved the original film – I almost wore out my VHS tape engaging in the ‘“real flight” aeronautics. And Harold Faltermeyer’s instantly evocative Top Gun anthem for the opening sequence.
Not there’s much need for a spoiler alert here. The plot is simply a device to show some white-knuckle visuals of the F18 Super Hornets in combat. As one reviewer noted: “With cameras inside cockpits and strapped to wings and nose cones, director Kosinski has effortlessly outdone the ground-breaking-for-the-time aerobatic sequences from the first film.”
John Nichol, a former RAF Tornado navigator, in his review of the film in the Times comments on “the most astonishing, technically beautiful, awe-inspiring flying sequences ever filmed. They are simply breath-taking.”
Sadly our seats in the Southport Vue cinema failed to vibrate in sync. Even so, very exhilarating. After two hours and 11 minutes of non-stop action, I was exhausted. Also driving home, our Honda Jazz seemed strangely under-powered.
The F18’s, it should be noted, have two cockpits – front for the pilot and behind him or her (great performance, incidentally, by Monica Barbaro) the weapon systems officer. Which allows the actors to be filmed as if they are actually flying the plane. No studio shots here as you see the incredible G-forces flatten their faces.
In fact, the producers paid the Navy $11,374 per flight hour and pilots to fly the F18’s, giving some alarming 800 hours of footage. One astonishing sequence had to be flown by one of the few Navy pilots cleared to fly what is called a low-altitude transition manoeuvre. The pressure wave the manoeuvre created destroyed a piece of the set, which meant the crew was only able to do the shot once.
Again, not much of a plot. The task, as explained to Cruise at the beginning of the film, is to hit some highly significant target to save world peace. What we are told is that this mission will require not one but “two consecutive miracles.”
Surprisingly he is not informed, neither are we, where in the world the target is situated. Call me old-fashioned but I would want some inkling which country I have been tasked to attack.
Judging by the proximity of the aircraft carrier, the mountainous terrain and the bridge architecture (yes, we fly under a tall bridge) it looks like the Italian Alps. Which can’t be right, especially as the hostile air force is flying fifth-generation Russian Su-57 fighters.
In fact, what we are watching is no more than a modern hi-tech version of the mid 20th century B-movie, entirely predictable in its outcome – although to be fair, Top Gun Maverick does have a surprising final chapter.
Nichol in his review explains that the whole scenario is totally implausible. “The boringly simple fact is that in combat you would rarely have friendly aircraft flying metres apart; it is tactically unsound and offers minimal purpose. Some of the sequences look as though the crews are training to join the Red Arrows, not fly a complex mission into enemy territory.”
So why Top Gun Maverick?
As pastor Rick Warren explains: “God created us for adventure.” We need to be pushed beyond our limits, to escape the gravitational pull of our boring everyday lives. And cinema allows us the exhilaration without the risk. However, it’s synthetic, not the real thing.
“Follow me.” When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, James and John from their fishing boats, he was inviting them to a life of adventure. It was to be a scary ride but some amazing experiences as they witnessed the power of God at first hand. And some remarkable escapades, including for Peter one astonishing prison escape.
And this Jesus also calls us. You never know when God opens the door to unique experiences, trials . . and risk. Like Cruise in Top Gun (or Mission Impossible) we are given the choice of whether to accept the challenge. I decide each time, freely: God never corners us.
As one commentator writes: “You can walk on the adventure side of life and be an individual God selects for urgent kingdom missions, or you can close the door and close your life to experiences and memories that might have been yours — but now never will be.”
So what’s your latest assignment? What is God tasking you to do? Note: it will involve some risk. However, the apostle Paul – who lived, by any reckoning, an adventurous life - can explain: “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.” (Ephesians 3:16).