Steven Spielberg directs Richard Dreyfus, Holly Hunter and John Goodman in this fantasy romance where a dead pilot guides the rookie who takes his place in the cockpit… and potentially the bedroom – a remake of 1943’s A Guy Named Joe.
Possibly the most Spielbergian lit movie ever. Danish cinematographer Mikael Salomon refuses to let a shot go past without infusing it with an almost parodic homage to his employer’s trademark painterly use of light to convey wonder and emotion. Sunrise through a window, dusk as a permanent state, shade through tall trees, raging fires, ghostly glows, piercing landing lights and fog light. Beams, blasts and filters a-go-go. It looks sumptuous. The tale it is in service of is slight and whimsical but our restless wunderkind can’t help but go large whenever possible. Beyond the epic aerial firefighting sequence, there are lurches into bits of big business that belong in an action blockbuster rather than a mature romance. Buses careen out of control, planes are taken for joyrides, trucks come to life. It means quite a ponderous proposition is never allowed to be boring. Yet with a cast this primo that was never ever a risk. Dreyfus is a flinty romantic lead but that suits his warts-n-all character. The Diane Thomas script doctored interplay between him and Hunter is seductive and the right side of combative. She’s burns up the screen with a fidgety layered performance that breaks hearts and should have gotten award recognition. Goodman does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of soul and laughs… even plot. There are swathes where you’d swear he’s the main protagonist. This is the first of many movies he’d steal. The man is Hollywood royalty in my book. Speaking of… Audrey Hepburn’s last role as an angel. She’s very frail but so playful and enigmatic. With this much high end cargo in the hold, nobody could blame the wooden Brad Johnson for not making much of a impact. The story all but gives up on him as viable third part of the romantic triangle before the last reel. Often considered a lesser and forgettable Spielberg entry, I remember loving this as a kid. And it held up well on a long delayed revisit.
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