Cannes 2022 Day 2: Top Gun Maverick premiere was a fully starry, fully Cannes moment

Tom Cruise is one of your permanently switched on Peter Pan stars: he doesn’t seem to have aged a day since he appeared In and As Top Gun in 1987. The premiere of the sequel, Top Gun, Maverick, which comes more than thirty years after the original, was a fully starry, fully Cannes moment. Cruise waved to the screaming crowds which had been lining the Croisette for hours, happily posed for selfies, as the band belted out ‘Great Balls Of Fire’, that anthem from the original movie which had all of us bopping along.

Back when the original film came out, the word ‘dude bros’ hadn’t been invented. ‘Top Gun’ was nothing but an array of dude-bros engaged in chest-thumping machismo, while also trying to save the world. It was a film of its time, in the way it indulgently did its boys-will-be-boys thing, as the ‘boys’ swarm around the lone woman on the base. Kelly McGillis’ attractive instructor becomes the target, and we fall for their romance: why would anyone not fall for our top gun, who strides down the runway, dark glasses glinting, wide grin flashing? A character says to Cruise’s Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, ‘you go home with the hottest woman’, and said captain smirks, accepting that his charm is a magnet with the gals, as McGillis looks on.

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Apart from becoming a pop culture moment, the film was single-handedly responsible for the sky-rocketing popularity of Ray Bans, the glasses that all cool aviators wore, as well as all the cops and crooks in Hollywood and Bollywood. A whole phalanx of young men dangled their helmets, rode their motorcycles, and dreamt of being top guns.

Cruise is the last of the breed of superstars whom we readily forgive even when they do the most outlandish things: does jumping up and down the sofa alongside a famous anchor still count? ‘Top Gun’ took Cruise’s career straight into the stratosphere, and he is still around, knocking of impossible missions, looping the loops. (Please look out for the Express review when the movie comes out in India, end of May).

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Male friendship is also the abiding theme of ‘The Eight Mountains’, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, in the way Pietro and Bruno keep circling back to each other, as they grow from man to boy.

The two and a half hour film, directed by Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch, screening in the Competition section, requires patience. It begins in 1984, and tracks the two boys who spend all their time outdoors, getting to know each other’s rhythms. In the first half hour, as we watch them run around on the slopes of the stunning Italian Alps, and dive into crystal clear lakes, we also see how different they are: Pietro’s father, who likes to trek in the high reaches, finds Bruno a readier learner. Leaping across an icy glacier is an act of faith. Pietro’s failure to do so defines their future relationship: it is like a wound that they can neither tease, nor heal.

What is the glue that keeps them returning to each other? ‘The Eight Mountains’ works better at outlining their differences. Bruno’s convictions as compared to Pietro’s uncertainties are easier to grasp: the former knows that the mountains are where he belongs, the latter continues to be a nomad. Their friendship is enduring, but not endearing, and you keep waiting for an ah-moment, even as you admire the magnificence of the mountains.

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And there’s another sequel in the works, of a film that came out the same year as ‘Top Gun’. ‘Dirty Dancing’ catapulted Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray into instant stardom. The growing feelings between that awkward teenager and the assured older man, accompanied by their sizzling moves on and off the dance floor, made ‘Dirty Dancing’ the movie it was, even though it would never have been green-lit today. But there was no doubt that the film made us swirly, giddy, tippy-toed. Will they be able to dust off the troublesome tropes, and make it a movie to dance to? The buzz in the Cannes market is strong: dancing, like flying, never goes out of style.

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