by Yariv Newman
The exhilarating movie has something to say about the high-stakes combat we all face in life.
After 36 years, Tom Cruise reprises his role as a rule-breaker fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the sequel Top Gun: Maverick. In a break from modern film making which mostly relies on computer-generated visual effects (CGI) to create impossible situations, Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski went to great lengths to ensuring that everything you’re seeing on screen is 100% real (with some liberties taken with the exhilarating third act).
Working in cooperation with the world’s most well-trained fighter pilots in the world, the Navy and the Top Gun Academy, the actors trained for months in order to be able to be filmed inside the flight deck for all the training and aerial combat sequences in the movie.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
Maverick is recalled to Top Gun to train an elite young group of F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots for an urgent mission to bomb a uranium enrichment facility of a mysterious, unnamed “rogue nation”. Since the facility is nestled in a deep depression at the bottom of a canyon and is heavily defended by a nearby airbase with high-end fifth-generation fighters, a high-speed, low-level approach is necessary to attack the facility, pushing the planes beyond their designed limitations.
Here are three Jewish takeaways from the exhilarating movie.
1. Going beyond our own personal limitations
The planes aren’t the only items that get pushed beyond their limits; the pilots do as well. Maverick explains to the team that in order to succeed in this dangerous mission they cannot rely upon technology, previous training or bravado (something the enemy already is aware of); they’ll have to go beyond their limitations.
Their first challenge requires flying through a narrow mountainscape 100ft off the ground at 760 miles per hour to avoid being shot down by the surface-to-air missiles and the 5th generation fighter jets. It’s a challenge no living pilot, including Maverick, has ever attempted.
The only way to attain is success is through failure and the commitment to keep pushing our boundaries.
Life’s most important challenges happen inside of us. We try, we fail, and we get up again. The only way to attain is success is through failure and the commitment to keep pushing our boundaries. With God’s help and our steadfast commitment to make the hard choices, we can win the battle.
2. Sometimes the impossible is possible
After many failed training simulations, the demoralized pilots begin to question if accomplishing Maverick’s plan is even possible. Maverick’s superior, Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson removes Maverick as mission trainer and draws up a new target approach that is less risky on approach but riskier on escape. Maverick, being the rule-breaker he is, stole a plane and perfectly executed the simulation according to his plan, proving to the trainees that their daunting mission could be accomplished because “It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.” This convinces Cyclone to return to the original plan who then appoints Maverick as strike leader of the mission.
When something we want to accomplish looks impossible, we have two choices: either to give up or at least try to do what we can. The Jewish people, escaping from Egyptian slavery, reached a dead end at the edge of the raging Red Sea. Getting to the other side seemed impossible and it looked like they were about to be captured again by the fast-approaching Egyptian army.
But one man – Nachshon – didn’t just give up. He decided to take the one step within reach and jumped into the sea. Only then did God make a miracle and split the sea, bringing Nachshon and the entire nation safely to freedom.
Our task is to take responsibility for the enormous tasks in front of us. Sometimes they seem insurmountable, too big to tackle. That’s when we need to realize it’s up to us to make the effort, to do what we can, and then let God work His magic. Fulfilling our efforts in a responsible, dedicated fashion create the opening to accomplish more than we ever thought possible, because at the end of the day God has our back. He’s the ultimate Maverick.
3. Learn to let go of the past in order to move forward
The film forces Maverick to confront his past as one of the younger fighter pilots (callsign Roster) in the group is the son of Maverick’s deceased best friend Goose. Goose died in the original Top Gun during a training exercise and Maverick still feels responsible almost four decades later. Rooster’s hatred for Maverick is also fueled by Maverick blocking his Navy application, upon the request of Rooster’s mother, which set his career back four years. In the course of the film Rooster and Maverick confront their past and learn to forgive and let it go in order to move forward.
We often get stuck defining ourselves by our failures rather than work on overcoming our setbacks and moving forward to the next challenge. Life’s too short to fixate on the past and obsess over your mistakes. Learn from your setbacks, commit to doing better and grow. To quote my fellow veteran designer, David Levy, “In life, you either win or you learn.”