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Top Gun: Maverick Scene: Breaking Rules to Achieve the Impossible

Top Gun: Maverick is a movie about a legendary fighter pilot (Maverick) training other pilots for an “impossible” mission while getting a second chance to love and protect those dearest to him.

My favorite scene in the movie happens after Admiral Simpson “permanently grounds” Maverick from the mission and Penny tells him that he will “find a way” to return to protect his students. During a mission briefing, Admiral Simpson changes the acceptable mission time from 2:30 to 4:00 to make the mission possible but risk the lives of the pilots. Maverick hijacks the briefing from the air in an F-18, telling mission control to change the time for the simulation to 2:15. He successfully completes the simulation, making everyone believe the mission is possible, including the admiral.

The scene with Penny starts at 1:17:35 in the movie and the following scene with Maverick hijacking the mission briefing starts at 1:18:49 (available on YouTube).

Scene Meaning

To make something “impossible” happen, you must break the rules and move forward in your most defeated, fragile, and hopeless state. Maverick’s good friend dies (Ice); he loses control over a promise to keep Rooster alive; and he realizes his student pilots will die under the leadership of Admiral Simpson. And even though he’s commanded to leave them all behind, he stays. He returns to a deep truth with the help of Penny, takes a big risk, and completes the mission. Returning is the real mission. Grace guides us there, but we must make the hard choice that turns “impossible” into possible.

Scene Lift

To hit company goals at a tech startup, I pitched the “impossible” mission of creating 100 articles in 30 days to help us rank at the top of Google for certain keywords. Not garbage articles, but good articles. I accomplished the mission, but broke rules along the way. To move quickly, I did not require freelance writers to sign contracts. I also stopped coming in to the office. I disappeared. To manage challenges outside of work at the time and focus on the mission, the office was not the right place for me. It was mistaken for entitlement and insubordination but the job got done. Four years later, the CEO still tells his peers about the “impossible” mission and the articles are still ranking at the top of Google.

Scene Script

The Top Gun: Maverick screenplay is not available yet. Below is my fan version of the script, starting with the scene where Penny restores Maverick’s hope after Ice dies and he’s booted from the mission.

FADE TO:

EXT. PENNY'S COTTAGE - NIGHT

Penny rests in the sound of the ocean from a seat on the porch steps. Maverick approaches, heavy from mourning Ice and losing command of his students. He rests a foot on the porch step.

PENNY
I heard. I'm sorry. 
(beat)
What are you going to do?

He looks down for an answer. Nothing comes. He shakes his head.

MAVERICK
Ice is gone. What choice do I have?

PENNY
You'll have to find a way back on your own.

MAVERICK
Penny—I'm out. This is over.

PENNY
Pete—if you lost your wingman up there, you'd keep fighting. You wouldn't just give up. They're your pilots. If anything happens to them, you'll never forgive yourself.

MAVERICK
I don't know what to do.

She reaches out to touch his cheek.

PENNY
But you'll find a way. I know you will.

In her eyes, the answer starts to appear.

FADE TO:

The SIMULATION SCREEN zoomed into the digital readout of: TIME ON TARGET -02:30.00

ADMIRAL SIMPSON (O.S.)
Captain Mitchell is no longer your instructor. And as of today these are new mission parameters. Time to target is now four minutes.

The readout beeps and switches to: -04:00.00

INT. TRAINING ROOM - DAY

Admiral Simpson is at the head of the room.

ADMIRAL SIMPSON
You'll be entering the valley level at reduced speed. Not to exceed four hundred and twenty knots.

The pilots turn to each other like they've been issued a death sentence.

BOB
Sir, won't we be giving their planes time to intercept?

ADMIRAL SIMPSON
Well, lieutenant, you have a fighting chance against enemy aircraft. What are the chances of surviving a head-on collision with a mountain?

Phoenix takes a breath of disbelief. Hondo darts his eyebrows.

ADMIRAL SIMPSON
You'll be attacking the target form a higher altitude, level with the north wall.

Payback slouches in his seat.

ADMIRAL SIMPSON
Gonna be a little harder to keep your lase on target but you will avoid the high G climb-out.

Admiral Bates, always neutral and looking straight-on, turns his eyes away from his boss the slightest bit.

FANBOY
(whispering to Payback)
We'll be sitting ducks for enemy missiles.

The simulation screen starts BEEPING with a steady pulse. On the screen, a blue F-18 SINGLE icon approaches the red training zone in the valley.

Rooster leans in.

ADMIRAL SIMPSON
Who the hell is that?

EXT. TRAINING ZONE - DAY

Maverick's F-18 cuts through the sky.

MAVERICK (O.S.)
Maverick to range control. Entering point Alpha.

INT. MAVERICK'S COCKPIT

MAVERICK
(to mission control)
Confirm green range.

INT. TRAINING ROOM

Hondo's on the edge of his seat, everyone is. Admiral Simpson is pissed but intrigued.

COMMS (O.S.)
Uh, Maverick, range control. Green range is confirmed. I—don't see an event scheduled for you.

Fanboy bounces from his seat with a big smile.

MAVERICK
Well, I'm goin' anyway.

This is the Maverick they've heard stories about.

PHOENIX
Nice.

EXT. TRAINING ZONE

Maverick shuttles over the dirt planes toward the valley.

MAVERICK
Setting time to target: two minutes and fifteen seconds.

INT. TRAINING ROOM
The readout beeps and switches to: -02:15.00

PAYBACK
Two fifteen, that's impossible.

Hangman replies with a "no it's not" look on his face.

MAVERICK (O.S.)
File point attack. Maverick's inbound.

Admiral Simpson is glued to the screen. He wants to believe.

INT. MAVERICK'S COCKPIT

He secures his helmet, clicks on the stick, and pushes the throttle forward.

EXT. TRAINING ZONE

The engines glow orange. The F-18 TWISTS sideways and inverts.

INT. COCKPIT

Maverick hits the boosters, breathing like pushing four hundred pounds off his chest. His eyes pull back into his skull. He approaches the valley through the impossible.

By Robert Gibb

Practicing screenwriting and writer @ Scene Lift

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