“I don’t like that look, man.” “It’s the only one I got.”
This scrap of dialogue is either from the new Top Gun film or it’s my expression whenever Boris Johnson cooks up another plan to save his goose (or Goose, if you want to stick with the parallel).
Yes, we’ve been to see Top Gun: Maverick, the totally absurd and yet absurdly enjoyable sequel. There aren’t many connections between this film, arriving 36 years after the original, and our present government. But I was struck by the nicknames, with Tom Cruise’s character, Pete Mitchell, bearing the obvious macho moniker, Maverick, while other pilots have call signs such as Rooster, Hangman, Phoenix and Payback.
Meanwhile, in Downing Street…
“We have to formulate a plan to save Big Dog.”
“Donnez-moi un break – it’s me, Bozzer, AKA Big Dog, everybody’s favourite misbehaved puppy and pretend clown.”
“Favourite? 148 of your MPs just voted that they have no confidence in you.”
“Nonsense, that was an outstanding result for Big Dog as 211 of my MPs said they did have confidence in me. Now it’s time to move on and…”
“Save your arse again, Prime Minister?”
“That’s the thing and I have a cunning plan.”
“Is it even more far-fetched that Tom Cruise swooping in low to blow up a nuclear plant, bailing out in the snow and then stealing an enemy plane?”
“Well, I am swooping in low and pinching an idea from good old Maggie – sell off the council houses to win people over and turn them Conservative.”
“Haven’t all the council houses already been flogged off, and about 40% are now owned by private landlords – some of them your mates.”
“Ah, good point and those mates will like me even more, or at least a little bit. Anyway, I want to sell off housing association houses, plenty of them to go around.”
“But didn’t Thatcher’s policy help create the very housing crisis you now claim you want to solve – while also leading to our over-heating housing market?”
“Who the hell are you to question me? Not sure I even recognise you. Did you hang around after one of those parties that never happened?”
“No, I just wandered here off a ledge somewhere.”
“Go back now. I don’t like that look you’re giving me.”
“It’s the only one I got.”
Big Dog likes to bite your ankles or make a mess on the floor for someone else to clean up. Or mess up this country’s housing supply even more than Thatcher did, just so that he can cling on to power for longer.
It’s quite a plot for a thriller: an unscrupulous, egotistical sociopath of a prime minister sees the end is nigh but plans to take his party and his country with him: if I can’t have this country, no-one can, etcetera.
Anyway, back to Top Gun. It’s been a while. Pete Mitchell is called back to train the new generation of pilots for one last deadly mission. And no, he doesn’t play by the rules, dropping the rulebook in the bin before our eyes (take that, rulebook).
After that, the cliches queue up like buses. You wait 36 years, and here they come, one after the other. You can pretty much write the script as it rolls out and can guess exactly what is about to happen. We’re all in this film together.
As a link to the original, Miles Teller plays Rooster, son of Anthony Edward’s Goose who, as Mark Kermode puts it in his Observer review, “got famously cooked in the first film”.
Seeing Rooster playing Great Balls Of Fire on the piano sends Maverick on an emotional flashback, and leaves him with the film’s central dilemma: should he allow Rooster to fly this dangerous mission, or will Goose’s son get cooked too?
There are oddities in the film, notably the ‘enemy’ whose nuclear must be removed before it goes live. This foe is left handily vague, presumably because you don’t want to go putting off potential markets for the film.
And, yes, this is pretty much still a recruitment advert for the US Navy – one that arrives just the world has been tipped into more explosive horror in Ukraine.
But the aerial acrobatics are as impressive as the story is cheesy. And however much you might want to, it’s hard to resist Tom Cruise in the end. It is, however, easy to resist the lazy lure of that big dog’s dinner of a prime minister.