As the deadlines for the 2023 Oscars approach, the list of nominees for the Best Actor category is crowded, but Tom Cruise’s performance as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick might have earned a chance for glory at the 95th Academy Awards.
Returning to the Top Gun role that put him at Mach 10 towards super stardom in the ’80s, Cruise elevates the role with depth and complexity.
Still, some may find that the character isn’t far removed enough from Cruise’s normal filmography to inspire a nomination for Best Actor, but there’s no denying that Cruise played the part in a way that shows nuance and growth.
Why Tom Cruise’s Performance Was Oscar-Worthy
Maverick Had Vulnerability As A Character
The Maverick from Top Gun is a hot shot that expresses extreme emotions with anger. This Maverick, tempered by age and experience, allows himself the grace to be sad, contemplative, and happy.
He’s vulnerable with his heart and thoughts around his men, Penny, and especially around Ice Man.
In fact, the scene with Ice Man radiates with so much warmth and affection that it’s impossible to overlook just how genuine Cruise is as an actor.
Gone is the signature Maverick cocksure attitude, replaced instead by a man willing to admit his anxieties and insecurities.
He also lets much of the focus be on the friend who has saved him in more ways than one over the years, and it’s a beautiful tribute to Val Kilmer in one of his best movies.
Tom Cruise Flew In A Fighter Jet To Experience The G-Force
After Top Gun, Cruise became famous for being one of the few actors ever allowed to fly a Tomcat, and for Top Gun: Maverick, he had to get right back in the cockpit. It was necessary to see how much aeronautics had changed over the years and live the experience of real Navy pilots.
Cruise transfers all of his experience into his cockpit scenes, making it believable that he’s a flying ace. It’s a lot of acting with his eyes, but he makes sure audiences see his frustration, fear, and exhilaration from beneath a lot of apparatus.
Tom Cruise Did Most Of His Own Stunts
Incredible stuntwork is something that happens in every Tom Cruise movie, and Top Gun: Maverick is no exception.
Cruise has long had a reputation in Hollywood for being able to perform as many stunts as humanly possible, and that greatly benefits his action scenes.
Cruise sounds like he knows what he’s talking about as he rattles off impressive military jargon, ceasing to appear like a superstar and instead transforming into the world-weary fighter pilot with decades of experience that Maverick has.
Maverick Remained True To His Roots
There are several times in the film where Maverick must face the music, and in typical Maverick fashion, he does so with a smirk and a glint in his eye.
Never one to conform to authority, his lesson in Top Gun was to learn the strength of teamwork, while everyone around him learned the benefit of having one person willing to push limits and stand out.
Maverick isn’t the same hothead, though. Years of being a test pilot have honed his skills, and luck no longer has a lot to do with how he flies. When he talks back to Admirals, it’s because he knows what he’s talking about, and has earned his right to challenge their perspectives.
Maverick Shows Genuine Emotion
Maverick isn’t a cipher in this story but a nuanced character capable of a broad spectrum of emotions.
He cracks jokes, mourns the loss of Goose, gets angry at the sunset of his flying years, and contemplates the meaning of life in the cockpit.
Maverick doesn’t have big outbursts anymore, and Cruise doesn’t mind letting other actors shine around him.
His emotions are mercurial and ever-changing, which is a refreshing development for a character who could have remained the same.