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The Gift of Spirit

Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. (OED)

Aviators and fire-fighters are adventurers, they capture the imaginations of many people. Always brings these two roles together in an updating of the 1943 Spencer Tracy/Irene Dunne war-time film.

Pete Sandich (Dreyfuss) is a firefighting flyboy. He and his friends -- firefighters (ground and air) hang out in primitive surroundings and go to places that are burning and bomb the fires out.

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His 'girl' Dorinda (Hunter) is a spirited flyer herself who works the control tower and has to deal with the additional strain of Peter's death-defying stunts.

The opening scenes introduce us to the couple, and to their faithful friend (Goodman) who, knowing that Dorinda is at the end of her rope, lines up a job for Peter teaching firebombing in Flat Rock.

We see friendship and love and watch Dorinda's joy at his gift of 'girl clothes'. Watching them is the young pilot Ted (Brad Johnson).

But Peter's time is coming to an end, and his new calling is to be one of the spirits whose existence is the source of the word "inspiration". His post-life mentor Hap (Audrey Hepburn in one of her last roles) points him towards Ted and Dorinda and he must learn that giving away is an important part of loving.

Beautifully filmed in the otherworldly beauty of Colorado and the desolation of Flat Rock, this is the most painterly and character-centred of Speilberg's films.

Unlike films like Amistad where Speilberg wields his lens like an overweight mallet, over-emphasising plot points and heavily underscoring character traits; the characterisation is natural and very human.

A small, well-chosen cast play their roles with care.

One of the most attractive things about this film is that there is no villain. The fires they fight have no agenda, no metaphorical density; and the characters we meet are pretty much all heroes. But this doesn't make the story too sugary and light-weight, rather it means that we are not distracted by testosterone and adrenaline-fuelled behaviour and instead watch the people as they come to grips with the realities of living and surviving and making their lives meaningful.

Highly recommended.

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For credits and official site details, see below
See also: A Guy Named Joe
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Just the facts:

Title: Always (1989)
Written by: Jerry Belson (screenplay)
Dalton Trumbo (screenplay "A Guy Named Joe")
Frederick Hazlitt Brennan (screenplay adaptation "A Guy Named Joe")
Chandler Sprague (story "A Guy Named Joe") and David Boehm (story "A Guy Named Joe")
Directed by: Steven Speilberg
Produced by: Kathleen Marshall
Edited by:
Director of Photography:
running time: 122mins

The Players: Holly Hunter, Richard Dreyfuss, John Goodman
Official website:
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