Top Gun

the pitches

Picture of Chris Sully

Chris Sully

Title: Top Gun: need for speed
Directed by: michael bay
Starring: Nicholas Hoult (gamer), John Boyega (pilot), Jennifer Lawrence, John Hamm

San Diego

In 2020, being invited to the Top Gun flight school is still one of the highest honors in the American Military Program, but things have changed drastically since 1986.

Today’s military still relies on fighter jets, but some of those are now remotely flown by “pilots” in military outposts FAR from their aircraft.

The 2020 Top Gun flight school class commences to find a group of 30 new recruits – 15 actual fighter pilots from within the ranks of the U.S. Military and 15 “remote” pilots, recruited via the simulation video games that they played online and dominated in at eSports tournaments. One such game was “Maverick,” where players had unknowingly been trying to best the performance of the real-life Top Gun graduate and legend from the 80s. (He is referenced, but never shown in the film, except through photos)

As with any film of this genre, there is tension between the two recruits, especially between the “real” pilots and the video game pros who were brought on to “replace them.” Much like in the original film, there are exercises/challenges that pit the instructors against the young recruits and the competitive nature is elevated between these sets of recruits.

Near the end of their training, the new pilots are called into action against an unknown enemy, but on American soil. This anonymous group flies unpiloted jets, built right here in the U.S. and has attacked several landmarks around the states, simply to show their power. After each mission, their aircraft detonate, leaving our military unable to track them back to their origin or establish who has been deploying them.

This anonymous group, code-named TACMOT, has threatened to attack the white house and kill the president, unless their demands are met. As required by movie law, the line “we do not bargain with terrorists” is uttered in response to their demands and it’s game on.

The two groups of Top Gun pilots come together to fight off the attack and during their battle, Hoult’s character (W01F), is able to track the anonymous signal back to where they are controlling their planes from, using some of his “hidden talents.” It turns out that he was a gamer AND hacker who had been arrested and cut a deal to participate in the program to reduce his sentence.

After defeating the enemies aircraft, the Top Gun graduates take the battle to the base of the anonymous crew, only to find out that it is all run by the son of a fallen pilot from the Top Gun program, maybe even someone we were familiar with from the first Top Gun film.

Title: top gun: dogfighters
Directed by: ridley scott
Starring: tom cruise, *actual saudi actors for main parts

 “Terrorism does not belong to any culture, or religion, or political system” – King Abdullah

American pilots are zooming at high speeds, practicing skilled formation changes when unidentified planes enter the airspace. These pilots are in similar fighter jets, only the pilots are communicating in Arabic. A chase ensues where several missile locks are evaded and tension is high.

Before anyone is shot down, however, the voice of air ops command calls the pilots to return to base, and we see both American and Saudi fighters descend on the same runway. We’re at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, home to the Blue Angels and one of the Navy’s largest international aviator training centers.

The students from the combat training simulation meet to debrief, the American and Saudi pilots exchanging friendly banter and jabs before class begins. Only one of the men appears unable to see the humor in the situation, a Saudi pilot locked into a grimace. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell appears before the class, older, more at ease, wedding ring on his finger and a few extra pounds around his middle. He takes the group through their mistakes, highlighting the one dangerous American pilot (Evan) that breaks all the rules yet still gets his enemy. Maverick both admires and berates Evan, the young reckless pilot that reminds him too much of himself.

When the class adjourns, the irate Saudi (Sefa Amin) confronts the rogue American, and when the scuffle gets heated, Sefa pulls a gun and shoots Evan down, along with two others. Maverick intervenes and kills Sefa.

After the funerals, we hear that international students are uneasy, the Saudis actually returning to their home country. International relations are in need of repair, and Maverick is getting orders to go to Saudi Arabia to help with a local training facility, an effort to keep trust among the two peoples.

He doesn’t want to go, but the higher ups explain that he and his dogfighting school are outdated concepts that have no place in modern American aviation. Drone and missile technology has made pilots like him obsolete to US needs, but America still needs to sell old tech to their allies. If they lose those allies, they lose a lot of money. If the Saudis won’t come to the US, the US goes to the Saudis.

Maverick travels to Saudi Arabia. We see from his simple packing, and leaving his keys in his small apartment, that he has no family to leave behind. He finds his new office at King Abdul-Aziz Air Base in Dhahran. His reception is mixed among the Royal Saudi Air Force in all rankings, and the other US air force personnel already working there make fun of Maverick for taking the training so seriously. They know how useless traditional jet fighters are and show off their drone control room, even killing a sheep in a field with incredible accuracy.

Maverick is troubled by his part in the death of the Saudi pilot, but keeps his focus on training better pilots. Among the squadrons’ F-15s, and Bell 412s, Maverick discovers a handful of abandoned F4 Phantoms, decades-old fighters like his father flew in Vietnam.

One of Maverick’s top students, who seems just as troubled and distant from his colleagues, joins Maverick in repairing the old planes. While most of the men speak English, Khalid speaks little at all. He’s intense, almost frightening, but in helping each other with the planes, they learn enough of each other’s languages to get the job done, and the pair of men develop a tenuous trust. Eventually, Khalid invites Maverick to dinner.

Maverick is unsure, but he sees this man is the closest thing he has to a friend and doesn’t want to offend him. Maverick visits Khalid’s home, surprising the Amin family, (Khalid’s parents and younger siblings) with his knowledge of customs, but Khalid mysteriously leaves Maverick behind. The dinner continues, and discussion is light, until panicked word comes from a neighbor that there has been a terrorist attack at the local market. The family and Maverick rush to help the wounded and put out fires, and some of the locals are upset by Maverick’s presence. The Amins invite Maverick to stay with them for the evening rather than going back to the base.

Before settling in for the evening at the Amin home, Maverick discovers a picture of Sefa, the man who he killed at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. This is his family, and Khalid is Sefa’s brother. Maverick is caught off guard and asks the family if they know who he is. The Amins say they know who he is, and claim not to blame Maverick for his part in Sefa’s death. They say their son was troubled, mixed up with the wrong people, conservative radicals that don’t support western influence. We see how disgusted and fearful they are of the dangerous extremists in their own land, and how hopeful they are for change.

Khalid comes home in the middle of the discussion. He’s angry, and looks like he may have been in a fight. Khalid’s odd behavior confuses and concerns Maverick. He begins to doubt the benign nature of his new friend, despite the kindness of the other Amins. Then a phone call from Khalid and Sefa’s sister comes in, checking on the family. When she hears Maverick is there she asks to speak with him. She tells him to stay away from her family, and Khalid agrees. Maverick should go.

Class the next day is tense. The whole base is discussing the bombing. Khalid goes up against Maverick in combat training, and Maverick gets scared, images of Sefa and the market aftermath corrupting his concentration. Maverick breaks away, but a car pulls up and asks him to get in. Inside is a woman. She’s beautiful, and her hair is exposed. She even shakes Maverick’s hand. Her name is Myriam, and she’s Sefa’s sister.

Myriam takes Maverick to a movie theater where young couples are risking being seen dating. Myriam tells Maverick about the religious, traditionalist, and government influence that has kept Saudi Arabian culture so rigid, but she says times must change. She’s a lawyer and a social activist, and it has made her a target by her own people. The women, covered in head scarves and abayas, and the men in their thobes, sit in the theater and stare at Myriam and Maverick.

She tells him that her family is already met with great strife over their break from traditional views, and her outspoken nature doesn’t help, but both Sefa and Khalid have had it the hardest, defending their family in many physical altercations. Sefa, was actively being recruited by a local terrorist group, then abruptly went to America for aviation training. She still doesn’t know if what he did was a terrorist act or a way to keep from coming home. She’s afraid that Khalid may be in a similar situation. She knows that the same group has approached him as well. She asks Maverick to watch and protect her brother.

Maverick deals with the tension of his unintended integration into the Amin family, unsure if he can trust Khalid, digging into the men he sees the Saudi pilot meet with off base. He reports back to Myriam, each time becoming more familiar with her, and romance blooms, but eventually the drama comes to a head.

Maverick discovers too late that Khalid has given a group of men access to the base, and with an explosive distraction, the bomber jets are stolen to be used for an airstrike on a nearby city. Many of Maverick’s students and the top pilots at the base are wounded or killed, and the drone control center is demolished. Maverick confronts Khalid about what he’s done. He says he had no choice. The men had threatened to kill Myriam and the entire Amin family if he hadn’t helped them.

Khalid and Maverick agree that the terrorists must be stopped, but there’s only a handful of pilots, and the only planes left are the old F4 Phantoms. The Saudi and American pilots take to the skies and track down the terrorists, and after a thrilling dogfight, bring them down and save the city.

The incident has been reported worldwide, and international pilots are pouring into American training facilities with renewed interest in traditional dogfighting techniques. Maverick is called back home to help, and asks Myriam to go with him. She says no. There’s too much to be done for her own people, but she says he’s family now. They part, and we close with Maverick on a commercial flight, flying into the sunset heading back to America.

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