Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
It takes some nerve, or just plain greed, to make a sequel of one of the most beloved action movies of all time, a movie that so etched itself into the American imagination that it famously increased recruitment to the US Navy by 40%. Well, Tom Cruise never lacked nerve. And, as in the newly released Top Gun Maverick, his nerve is rewarded.
Certainly, the aerial action, the soundtrack, the cinematography did indeed ‘take my breath away’. Still, the film’s driver, as in many of Cruise’s early films, is whether the hero can overcome the flaw that is preventing them becoming all they might be. It was a familiar pattern: a smart, brattish, highly talented individual with a chip on their shoulder and a wound in their heart must learn a big character lesson or fail. In Days of Thunder it’s a racing driver, in The Firm and A Few Good Men it’s a lawyer, in Top Gun a pilot. Their wounds hamper them in different ways, but all have issues with their father or in their wider family.
In Maverick, Cruise, is still haunted by the accidental death in the first film of his navigator Goose, twenty years ago. Now single, childless, highly decorated but still a lowly captain, Cruise is faced with the prospect of retirement. His work, he sees, is his identity. If he can no longer fly, who will he be?
But Cruise, channelling Dylan Thomas, will ‘not go gentle into that good night’. Reprieved to train an elite group for a mission that is half Dambusters and half assault on the Death Star, his guilt over Goose’s death is triggered by the presence of Goose’s son, Rooster, a man with his own wound and resentments. Is reconciliation possible? Will their respective wounds scupper the mission? Can Cruise let go of the past? Can Rooster? Can either of them forge a satisfying future?
It’s a curious thing that in the midst of this mach-speed, rock-operatic, military movie, questions of shame, guilt, forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, and loyalty are so compellingly, if not subtly, explored. Indeed, all the films mentioned earlier explode the myth of the all-American, heroic individual who can do it ‘my way’ and flourish. Even Maverick needs friends, wisdom, challenge, help, and love to get through the danger zone and beyond. Good grist for a gospel-conversation? You betcha.
Mission Champion, LICC