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Tom Cruise enters 'Danger Zone' in first 13 minutes of 'Top Gun: Maverick': Here's what you need to know

LAS VEGAS — Tom Cruise just won CinemaCon, dominating the convention for national theater owners with a dazzling display of his envelope-pushing, "most dangerous" stunt ever for "Mission: Impossible 7" and a reveal of the 13-minute opening of "Top Gun: Maverick."

After multiple pandemic-driven delays for the anticipated film, "Maverick" is due to hit screens nationwide Nov. 19.

The "Maverick" footage revealed at CinemaCon literally puts Cruise back in the danger zone. Fans of the original will rejoice knowing that the film opens with the classically awesome Kenny Loggins guitar-screed "Danger Zone," which became the soundtrack to summer 1986 when "Top Gun" first jetted into movie screens.

To boot, the scene is on an aircraft carrier with jets careening to stops on the platform. Very old school "Top Gun." Director Joseph Kosinski hits all the right touchstones from the original "Top Gun" right off the bat: Maverick (Cruise) grabbing his Ray-Bans, passing by photos of his deceased flight partner Goose (Anthony Edwards), throwing on that leather jacket, dramatically pulling the tarp off his motorcycle and then going for a joyride.

Thank you for that. And then it's on to the new.

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Here's what we learned from the sneak footage, without getting all spoiler-y:

  • Thank heavens Ed Harris returns to the screen to give Cruise's Maverick a suitable "Top Gun" foil. Looking tough as nails, Harris plays a drone-loving admiral who shuts down Cruise's jet program. But not before Cruise can get one more record-breaking flight in. As Cruise gets close to his record flight, Harris's newly-arrived admiral grunts, "You got some balls stick jockey, I'll give you that."
  • Cruise's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is still mourning his lost RIO Officer Goose. Flying through the clouds, he looks at the rising sun and murmurs, "Talk to me, Goose." In the original movie, Maverick was cleared following the investigation over Goose's death. But it looms large with Goose's son, Lt Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Miles Teller) joining Cruise's elite pilot group. In the Super Bowl "Maverick" trailer, Mitchell shouts, "My dad believed in you, I'm not going to make the same mistake."
  • Cruise is assigned as leader to the elite fighter training as a favor from an old friend, Admiral Kazansky. That's right, Val Kilmer's once cocky pilot Iceman is now an admiral, as seen in the footage displayed Thursday. There's even a framed picture of the admiral. Maverick is told, "He seems to think you have something to offer the Navy. What that is, I cannot imagine." Iceman did famously say in the original film, "You can be my wingman anytime."

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Tom Cruise wears a mask on the set of "Mission: Impossible 7" in Venice.

500 skydives, 13,000 motorbike jumps: Tom Cruise's 'Mission: Impossible' stunt training pays off

Also shown at CinemaCon Thursday was elaborate behind-the-scenes footage of an "MI:7," stunt showing Cruise working with stuntmen to ride a motorbike off a massive ramp, over a mist-covered Norwegian cliff, free-falling in the air near the falling bike, and then parachuting to the ground.

"This is far and away the most dangerous thing I’ve attempted," said Cruise, in footage remarks. "We’ve been working on this for years."

The shoot took months working with separate stunt coordinators and with Cruise practicing the motorbike jump 13,000 times, including on a specially dug out quarry with cardboard boxes placed to save the motorcycle each time. Cruise said there were more than 500 skydives to get the free-fall near the walls of the Norwegian cliff right. 

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Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible - Fallout." The actor has more tricks up his sleeve.

The footage shows Cruise naturally bringing the camera along when he finally does the Norwegian cliff jump, showing him putting in his ear plugs before go time. "I like to wear ear plugs so I don't hear myself scream," he says.

Cruise takes the long ramp ride, jumps into the mountain mist of the dramatic cliffs, flies in the air with the motorcycle and pulls the parachute out.

Even better is seeing writer-director Christopher McQuarrie watching the monitors nervously as Cruise takes flight, and holding his head in nervousness after the parachute finally opens. The cheering crowd at CinemaCon could relate to the action.

Cruise seemed unsatisfied, saying he could have held onto the motorcycle longer in the air. They set up to do the stunt, again. And again. And again.

"Tom Cruise rode a motorcycle off a cliff six times today," a stunt coordinator is heard saying at the end of the day.

McQuarrie looks relieved for now. "The only thing that scares me more is what we have planned for M:I8," he says.

"Mission: Impossible 7" opens Memorial Day weekend 2022.