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City of Angels

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: City of Angels

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan
Director: Brad Silberling
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: April 1998
Genres: Drama, Romance


*Also starring: Andre Braugher, Dennis Franz, Colm Feore, Robin Bartlett, Joanna Merlin, Sarah Dampf



Review by Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

'City of Angels' is from director Brad Silberling (1995's 'Casper') and is based on the 1988 Wim Wenders film 'Wings of Desire'. The setting for this film is Los Angeles and the poetic tone the film projects for its entire running time is both mystical, hypnotic and truly gives the viewer an emotional experience that doesn't just come from the performances of its two leads but from the overall beauty of its story and how things develop based upon some early scenes of tenderness and gentle kindness. The opening scene is a little girl's bedroom and the child is running a fever of 105 and her mother takes her to the hospital, all the while under the observation of an angel named Seth (Nicolas Cage). Upon receiving treatment at the hospital, a second image of the child is seen standing next to Seth, obviously her spirit ready for the journey towards Heaven and Seth explains that she will see her mother again one day.

Seth is captivated by a beautiful doctor named Maggie Rice (Meg Ryan) and falls in love with her. He tries to comfort her after the unavoidable death of a patient in her care who died on the operating table of a serious heart condition. Maggie blames herself but her superiors at the hospital and her eventual encounter with Seth convince her otherwise. It seems that Seth and other angels like him can't be seen unless they want to be.

Cage and Ryan are very well matched as lovers in the film and their chemistry gives the film the leverage it needs to maintain its tone from start to finish. Also thrown into this already impressive cast is a cardiac patient (Dennis Franz) at Maggie's hospital who knows of Seth's identity and because I want to avoid this becoming a spoiler review, I will stop here.

There are some rather interesting scenes of beauty such as the early morning California sunrises which a group of angels gather for regularly to observe for its beauty and appreciated simplicity. Seth seems to hear music in the sunrise and takes pleasure in the fascinating quality of the human experience and this draws him closer to Maggie as the film moves along. Maggie eventually falls in love with Seth and the two of them try and embrace in the total human experience and Seth must face a choice of continuing as one of God's messengers or joining the human race on Earth.

What I wanted to avoid thinking about throughout the course of this film, were inevitable comparisons to films such as 'Ghost' and 'Heaven Can Wait' and while 'City of Angels' is not a completely original film, it does have the magic to make it a good film, lacking greatness because of its somewhat muddled ending. Cynics will trash the film for being too nice for its own good while others will appreciate it for its old-fashioned and mostly successful take on the oldest story in the world, love.

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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