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Spielberg here updates the plot of the WWII movie A Guy Named Joe, replacing fighter pilots with firefighters. Pilot Pete (Dreyfuss) and dispatcher Dorinda (Hunter) are a loving couple who share a dangerous profession. Dorinda's worst fears are confirmed when Pete dies a fiery death, but unseen to the human eye he reemerges on earth as a guiding spirit to a novice pilot (Johnson). Divested of wartime significance, this process is rationalised as for reasons of spiritual growth (the afterlife appears distinctly New Age as a green glade inhabited by a tranquil Audrey Hepburn). After an unpromising beginning, which conveys the couple's tediously arrogant exchanges, the film gathers force in its examination of grief and longing. Pete must oversee Dorinda's burgeoning affair with his trainee; she must overcome deep-seated despair at her lover's death. The bizarre nature of the conflict never lapses into absurdity, thanks largely to sound casting and a strong supporting performance from the ever-dependable John Goodman. Spielberg's confident direction is particularly effective in the aerial sequences, but he gets carried away in an overblown conclusion.

Release details

Duration: 123 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriter: Ronald Bass, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Belson, Diane Thomas
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss
Holly Hunter
John Goodman
Brad Johnson
Audrey Hepburn
Roberts Blossom
Keith Davis
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