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Top Gun

Year: 1986
Studio: Paramount
Director: Tony Scott
Producer: Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer
Writer: Jim Cash/Jack Epps Jr
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Meg Ryan, Tom Skerritt, Val Kilmer, Michael Ironside, John Stockwell, Tim Robbins

Wall Street. Less Than Zero. Pretty In Pink. Like no other decade, the 80s were home to movements in fashion, consumer technology, pop culture and the companies and movements that helped define them.

And aside from launching more than one Hollywood career beyond the stratosphere, this film defined not just a movement but cemented a filmmaking style. Look at his back catalogue of jump cuts and machismo now and you'd think it was all Tony Scott, but I attribute Top Gun's style more to the powers and influence of high octane producers Simpson and Bruckheimer at their peak.

When the film world was still panting from the afterglow of Star Wars, the duo pointed movies in a stark new direction. Seemingly the first producers to realise filmgoers were kids, they made every film a rock concert of hits and recruited directors with the same sense of balls-to-the-wall action and love of everything masculine to their cause.

Every camera move and word of dialogue drips with so much testosterone it makes Top Gun the butt of a million homoerotic jokes in our more cynical current era (most notably Quentin Tarantino's monologue in Sleep With Me). Remember how blatantly gay the beach volleyball scene could be construed as, accompanied by Kenny Loggins' Playing With the Boys?

But it's where Simpson and Bruckheimer perfected the high concept pitch. As the story goes, Simpson turned to his partner after reading a magazine article about the Miramar, California fighter pilot school and said 'it's Star Wars, on Earth'. The potential for aerial dogfights and the devil-may-care men who fought them was deep, and director Scott plumbed it wholeheartedly.

The lead character is the object of worship, yearning and lust by the producers and director - young, good looking, charismatic, fearless and rebellious. What else could he be called but 'Maverick'. And what better actor to portray him than the growing star wattage of Tom Cruise?

He's one of a cadre of Navy fighter pilots selected to attend the elite school and become the fabled best of the best of the (etc). With partner Goose (Edwards) in tow, he'll get the hot civilian instructor (McGillis) into bed. He'll find his nemesis in colleague Iceman (Kilmer) who's possibly as good as he is. He'll lose his way and have to reach out to various father figures, from Jester (Ironside) to Viper (Skerrit).

And you just know he'll get the chance to kick ass against the disposable enemies of the day – in this case, a Macguffin-ish Libyan squadron who ventures too close to American soil, deserving a fate no more complicated than having the shit blown out of them.

To the extent that credited writers Cash and Epps did actually write the screenplay (I think Simpson probably stood over them screaming 'More pussy! More explosions!'), the dialogue is passable throughout. It falls completely flat during the action sequences – particularly the final battle scene, the film relying instead on what was probably the most advanced aerial camerawork around at the time to capture F-14 fighters rocketing through the sky.

But like many films that come to define periods, styles and ways of movie life, we seldom remember the low points. Just tell someone you 'feel the need' and see what they say.

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