The title, we are told in a tersely written preamble, is the nickname for the elite Fighter Weapons School, where the top one-percent of Naval aviators keep alive the noble art of aerial combat. In what follows, director Tony Scott attempts to keep alive the noble art of movies about it. This means that the hero will have to be someone the MTV generation can identify with — someone who proves that you can be the biggest screw-off and wise-ass and yet still be the best pilot, most irresistible sex object, most esteemed friend, etc., etc. And of course it means there will be plenty of rock music in the background, and the sound effects will be earsplitting, and the visuals will be repulsively prettified (yet strangely, grayly obscure, as if viewed through a frosted window). It means also that Howard Hawks and William Wellman, who knew flying as well as they knew filmmaking, must be spinning in their graves. Maybe not over everything: Tom Skerritt has a great manner and great haircut as one of the veteran instructors; the storyline respects the age-old traditions of male camaraderie; and the climactic dogfight, though not terribly lucid, is pretty exciting — or anyway the participants in it are pretty excited. Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer. (1986) — Duncan Shepherd
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