4K UHD Review: Top Gun

I was thirteen when Top Gun came blazing to the big screen in 1986. I absolutely loved the film and saw it three or four times during its original theatrical run. Tom Cruise was buff, the planes were cool, and the soundtrack rocked; in my newly minted teenage mind Top Gun had all the ingredients that made up the perfect film.

Fast forward nearly thirty-five years, and I’ve learned that truly great films are built on a good script, strong plot and fleshed out characters; none of which play a pivotal role in Top Gun. When you get right down to it, Top Gun is little more than a high-flying music video, with some lukewarm love scenes to show off then twenty-four-year-old Tom Cruise’s undeniable hunky good looks.

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise), and his best friend Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), are sent to Top Gun, an elite training school for the top one percent of pilots in the navy. Maverick quickly establishes himself as one of the best fliers in the class, and a top candidate for the coveted Top Gun trophy. Not surprisingly, Maverick clashes almost immediately with his closest rival, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer). In a predictable twist, Maverick falls in love with his beautiful, blonde instructor, Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis)–if you haven’t already guessed; everyone in this film has a nickname. Maverick is overflowing with machismo until tragedy strikes, and for the first time ever, he questions whether he has what it takes to get back in the cockpit again. But alas, this is 1986–the Communists and their MiGs are everywhere, and someone has to stand up to them.

It’s not hard to ridicule Top Gun, thirty-five years after its initial theatrical run. The look of the film is pure MTV, which was still a fairly new concept back then. As with several successful movies around that time–Footloose and Flashdance among them–Top Gun had the feel of a long-playing video, wrapped around a loosely constructed narrative.

None of the actors involved with Top Gun are required to do much. Cruise is required to act cocky at all times, sometimes oiled and wet if he needed to look particularly hunky. Though Kelly McGillis was supposedly playing a smart and tough flight instructor, she spends most of the film looking lustfully at Tom Cruise. Among the adults performing in thankless roles, the reliable Tom Skerritt and Michael Ironside come off best, although there is minor amusement value in the sight of James Tolkan playing the same strict disciplinarian that he played so often during the 1980s and getting to say things like “Your ego is writing checks that your body can’t cash.”

Still, the flying scenes are scintillating and even the most cynical viewer is likely to succumb, even if only for a few minutes at a time. There is still something magical in the idea of getting into the cockpit of one of those planes and soaring high above the clouds. Top Gun is bound to appeal to those movie fans who harbor dreams of flying. It’s also worth noting that in 2015, Top Gun was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 4K disc is a quality reproduction of the source. Sharpness is strong throughout. Though photography is a bit soft on occasion, the image appears accurate and well defined. A nice layer of grain is in evidence, and print flaws aren’t an issue. Colors look natural, and appropriate. While not a particularly bright palette, the hues appear well rendered and full. The Dolby Vision disc’s HDR added depth and impact to the tones as well. Blacks look deep and inky, while shadows reveal impressive clarity. Expect bright whites and strong contrast.

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack included with Top Gun is excellent. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the track provides a wide and involving soundfield. The many action scenes provide opportunity for use of the entire soundfield, and the audio uses it well. Jets zoomed around the room convincingly, and the mix turned very active on those occasions. Ambient elements also fared well, while the almost-constant music presented strong stereo imaging. Split surrounds are also used convincingly when called upon. Audio quality is strong. Dialogue is clean, clear, and concise throughout.

English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, and Thai subtitles are included.

The following extras are included:

On the 4K Disc:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Tony Scott, co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, co-writer Jack Epps, Jr., and naval experts Capt. Mike Galpin, Rear Admiral Pete Pettigrew, and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe.

On the included Blu-ray:

  • Six-part, 2004 documentary, Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun, which spans some 147 minutes, and covers just about everything you’d ever want to know about the movie from pre-production through production, visual effects, music, release, and impact of the film.
  • Two multi-angle storyboards, “Flat Spin” and “Jester’s Dead,” which you can watch in either of several ways and with optional director commentary.
  • Best of the Best: Inside the Real Top Gun, which takes us into the real-life “Top Gun” school. It runs about 28 minutes.
  • Following these items is a “Vintage Gallery” of older material. These include four music videos: “Danger Zone” with Kenny Loggins; “Take My Breath Away” with Berlin; “Heaven in Your Eyes” with Loverboy; and “Top Gun Anthem” with Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens; a five-minute behind-the-scenes featurette; a seven-minute “Survival Training” featurette; seven TV spots; and a little over six minutes of Tom Cruise interviews.

[Note: Some of this review was taken from a previous Blu-ray review of this title by the author]

Top Gun (1986)
Top Gun 4k

Movie title: Top Gun

Country: USA

Duration: 109 min

Director(s): Tony Scott

Actor(s): Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt , Michael Ironside

Genre: Action, Romance, Drama

  • Movie
    (4)
  • Video
    (4.5)
  • Audio
    (4.5)
  • Extras
    (4)
4.3