Remembering Tony Scott – Top Gun (1986)

I was a little stunned when I crawled out of bed Monday morning for what I’m hoping to be a spectacular week only to learn that Tony Scott, noted director and brother of Ridley, took his own life.

I’m not going to talk about the man himself, I didn’t know him, but I did enjoy his films. He had a style, saturated colours, and quick, interconnecting cuts, and his was a name I was always delighted to see in a film’s credits.

My earliest experiences with his films was while I was growing up as an Air Force brat at CFS Daniel’s Head Bermuda (don’t bother to look for it, it’s no longer there, and has been replaced by this odd little resort with little houses on stilts. There’s almost no trace of my childhood left there – that must say something about the transience of life…), my friends and I would travel to the closer of two American bases on the island, in Sandy’s Parish on George’s Bay road (the American base is no longer there either, but you can tell where it was, because it’s one of the few places where the water is less than crystal clear – draw from that what you will).

The little movie house there would have double features on Saturday nights, and me, my friends, Sean, Kerri  and Trevor and others, after they had moved back to Canada would go and see first run films 2 for $5. Not bad, and the concession stand was just as cheap as well!

It was here that I was first introduced to Tony Scott’s films, and there really wasn’t a better way to do it.

I was on an American Naval Base, and I was going to see Top Gun.

Let that sink in for a moment if you will…

An American Naval base, packed with Marines, Naval officers, and pilots.

And Top Gun.

Can you imagine?

Talk about hitting your target audience!

I had never been in a movie theater that was standing room only, but that night it was! I was seated on the stairs that led up to the projection booth. I remember dangling my legs through the railings, the smell of the popcorn, the aisles lined with people leaning against the walls, every one of them eager for the movie to begin, to see this slick version of their own reality.

As soon as that first Tomcat clawed its way into the sky, there were cheers from the entire room, but the soundtrack was blasting so loud that you could still hear everything. There were shouts, and cheers, and a general sense of back-patting in the theater, as everyone seemed to congratulate themselves on what an awesome career choice they had made.

Sure the F-5s posing as Mig-29s were called as soon as they appeared on-screen, but that didn’t detract from one single moment of the experience.

It was a huge rush, to be swept up in that storm, as the audience cheered, clapped, stomped its feet to this film.

This was something that had never happened in any film I had ever seen before, this was how a movie could transcend the screen and take on a life of its own. I’d been a part of these things before, with Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but this was the first time that I was in the theater, and aware that this was something special, that this film spoke to people, especially the people I saw the film with.

The soundtrack was on permanently loop on my walkman, the tunes blasting my ear drums as I navigated the tiny roads of Bermuda on my little Aero moped. I was already a huge fan of beach volleyball and I remember playing two on two whenever we could find people to play against.

It was THE movie that summer, and its influence is still felt today…

That was what Tony Scott gave me. He gave me one of the best theatrical experiences of a movie I had ever had, one that I couldn’t let go, and had to hold onto it all summer long.

Since then I have always delighted in Tony Scott films, they could always be counted on to be slick and entertaining, and his influence will be missed. Top Gun may not be my favorite movie of his, that would be Spy Game, though I do love True Romance, Crimson Tide, Beverly Hills Cop II, and on and on…

I hope you have found the peace you deserve Mr. Scott, and I’m sorry I never got to meet you and tell you how much I love your films.

Rest now.

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