Rated: PG-13 Running Time: 1:57 - Released 4/10/98

In this remake of his award-winning German art film Wings Of Desire (1987), writer/director Wim Wenders has recreated the touching story in America with the help of Dana Stevens, and this time left the directing to Brad Silberling. Sprinkled with humor so that it doesn't appear to take itself too seriously, this film offers a thoughtful love story and an intriguing look into the lives of angels, and the lives of those touched by them.

After losing a patient, heart surgeon Maggie Rice (Meg Ryan) questions her validity and that of her profession. Though she bounces back after a more successful surgery, she still has the feeling that she is not in control; "that nothing — nothing — is in my hands," she says. That feeling comes from the invisible presence by her side, whose name is Seth (Nicholas Cage).

Seth had arrived at the hospital to escort the unfortunate first patient into the Great Beyond, but was so intrigued with Dr. Rice's dedication to keeping the man alive that he couldn't leave. Eventually he begins to show himself to her, and though she at first confuses him with an overzealous Christian, she can't help being intrigued. This mysterious man, who keeps appearing out of nowhere, seems to know her better than she knows herself. As the two spend more and more time together, they learn more and more about each other and their separate worlds. Finally, frustrated by his need for feeling, Seth takes a plunge that makes him feel more than he ever bargained for.

This is a beautiful film in many ways. John Seale's (The English Patient) cinematography is lovely, with sweeping helicopter shots above the highest edifices of Los Angeles where angels are perched like so many silent ravens in their long black coats, watching over mankind. Although they sometimes appear a little spooky (they're literally everywhere, invisible to the "mortals" who scurry about their petty business day to day), one eventually gets a comfortable sense of being insulated by these benign visitors. Silberling's artful images create a dual reality, with angels sitting and standing amongst us all, reading our thoughts, watching our lives, at once protective and envious of our tangible existence.

The chemistry between Cage and Ryan is tangible, too, and when their minds and bodies finally meld, the delivery is subtle enough to be breathtaking. Cage portrays his first feelings exquisitely; he literally jumps into mortal life with both feet, and loves the splash, savoring everything from bodysurfing to Bosc pears. Sensitive supporting performances by Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue) and André Braugher (Homicide: Life On The Street) add balance to this beautiful, poignant story, making for a fully satisfying production. ****½

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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