Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Farewell Top Gun Tony

Published Thursday, 23 August 2012
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As a tribute to the late great Tony Scott, this week we are winding the clock back to the British director's classic Hollywood high flyer, Top Gun.

When I hear the name Tony Scott, it immediately conjures up fast cars, jet engines, fading sunsets, chewed cigars and that trademark red, baseball cap. His blockbuster movies include Days Of Thunder, True Romance and The Last Boy Scout. But by far his biggest and most iconic film, which took our breath away in the 1980's, was Top Gun.

Back in 1986, I was one of those adrenaline filled teenagers who, after watching this movie, headed for the exit punching the air like Rocky and dreaming of becoming an officer and a gentleman. In America such was the frenzy of the Top Gun finale, the US Navy set up recruitment booths in cinemas to catch the next hot shots.

Watching Top Gun again twenty five years after its release is still a dazzling and dizzying experience. You are not so much on the edge of your seat as flung around it as the on-screen action endlessly spins and soars.

Tom Cruise plays Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell, a reckless young pilot, who takes on the ultimate flying challenge to become 'Top Gun' at the elite US Navy flying school. There, he battles to become king of the skies with Val Kilmer's 'Iceman', dates his instructor Kelly McGinnis and searches for the truth about his missing father, an ace pilot lost in the Vietnam war.

Top Gun may be the movie that made Tom Cruise a superstar but make no mistake, as it states in black and white above the title, this is A Tony Scott Film. The 'maverick' director is the star of this picture and when his name appears on screen, Top Gun moves into overdrive. Directed by Tony Scott is accompanied by the ferocious firing up of a jet fighter on the gleaming deck of an aircraft carrier.

Having directed hundreds of commercials, Scott brought a glamour, a slickness and a frenetic pace to his movies. This is shock and awe editing as the sunlit planes ignite and roar off into the dark blue sky. Enter Kenny Loggins pumping rock song Danger Zone, who's thumping lyrics read like a mantra for Scott himself, "Revvin' up your engine Listen to her howlin' roar. Metal under tension, beggin' you to touch and go. Highway to the Danger Zone. Ride into the Danger Zone."

On and off screen Tony Scott was a thrill seeker whose films you could never accuse of being boring. He was an Art School graduate who made it all the way from the banks of the River Tyne to the top of the tree in Hollywood. Although, many perceived his career to be overshadowed by that of his older brother Ridley Scott; visionary director of Alien, Blade Runner and Thelma and Louise. "Nobody does toga movies like my brother," Tony said about the acclaim Ridley received for his Roman epic Gladiator, winner of five Oscars in 2001.

But Tony Scott was never in the shadows because he was the cinematic master of sunlight. Whether it be sunrise or sunset no filmmaker has captured more majestically the golden glow of the magic hour. How sad then to see the sun go down on his career, especially when at the time of his death he had been working with Tom Cruise on a sequel to Top Gun. We truly have lost that loving feeling.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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