City of Angels

1998

City of Angels

Critics Consensus

City of Angels may not tug the heartstrings as effortlessly as it aims to, but the end results will still leave more than a few viewers in tears.

58%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 60

82%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 345,550
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Movie Info

What happens when an angel falls in love with a mortal? In this Hollywoodized version of Wim Wenders' "Wings of an Angel," the romance is as longing and deferred as it was in "Sleepless in Seattle."

Cast

Meg Ryan
as Maggie
Dennis Franz
as Messinger
Colm Feore
as Jordan
Rhonda Dotson
as Susan's Mother
John Putch
as Man in Car
Lauri Johnson
as Woman in Car
Christian Aubert
as Foreign Visitor in Car
Jay Patterson
as Air Traffic Controller
Shishir Kurup
as Anesthesiologist
Brian Markinson
as Surgical Fellow
Hector Velasquez
as Scrub Nurse
Marlene Kanter
as Circulating Nurse
Bernard White
as Circulating Nurse
Dan Desmond
as Mr. Balford
Deirdre O'Connell
as Mrs. Balford
Kim Murphy
as Balford's Daughter
Chad Lindberg
as Balfords' Son
Alexander Folk
as Convenience Store Clerk
Rainbow Borden
as Hold-Up Man
Harper Roisman
as Old Man in Library
Sid Hillman
as Librarian
Wanda Lee Evans
as Nurse in Messinger's Room
Wanda Christine
as Station Nurse
E.J. Callahan
as Waiter at Johnnie's
Tudi Roche
as Messinger's Daughter
David Moreland
as Husband Frank
Stan Davis
as Construction Foreman
Mik Scriba
as Construction Worker
Nick Offerman
as Construction Worker
Kieu Chinh
as Asian Woman
Geoffrey A. Thorne
as Big Orderly
Peter Spellos
as Mac Truck Driver
Jim Kline
as Store Clerk
Cherene Snow
as Woman Sewing
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Critic Reviews for City of Angels

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (25)

  • Strains to achieve the enchantingly sublime, but ends up sinking to the depressingly ridiculous.

    Apr 27, 2007 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Observer
    Top Critic
  • As a remake it's not as poetic as Wenders' masterpiece Wings of Desire, but it's supremely mounted (by ace lenser John Seale) and contains touching performances from Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan deviating from their respective screen images.

    Jun 1, 2006 | Rating: 3/4

    Emanuel Levy

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Funnier than Wenders' version, and it also succeeds in visualising LA as a magical city while dealing intelligently with the themes of mortality, sacrifice, free will, and the mixed blessings of the human condition.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • My face had been locked in that goofy, awestruck expression you experience only in Spielberg movies. City of Angels demonstrates the best kind of emotionally manipulative filmmaking.

    Jun 18, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • A lovely oddity.

    Apr 12, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It manages to leave a pleasant afterglow for those in the mood for its kind of loving.

    Feb 14, 2001 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for City of Angels

  • Jun 06, 2015
    A remake of a German film- The Sky Above Berlin, it follows an angel who falls in love with a surgeon and desires to become human. Starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, probably Cage's best performance ever.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2013
    Though City of Angels is nowhere near perfect or even beautiful, Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage's strong chemistry made it work. And I loved Iris.
    Maymay A Super Reviewer
  • Aug 14, 2012
    Wow, this really is a radically loose remake of "Wings of Desire", largely because it actually has a plot. A lot of people forget about the Italian in the blood of Nicolas Cage, or rather Nicolas Coppola (You'd think he'd drive the name of his uncle into the dirt a bit more, but maybe realizes he's famous enough as is), but a good way to remember is to think of the irony in fact that, this time, it's the Italian who's making a film less avant-garde, though evidently not entirely to the critics' liking. Well, I'm sorry that this isn't as good as an hour-and-a-half of Bruno Ganz floating around and reading peoples' minds, followed by ten minutes of a mildly intresting plot and, finally, twenty minutes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performing the unfathomably dreaded acts of torture that have since gone on to play a part in modern "music". Okay, calm down art snobs, because I still didn't dislike the film, though, woah boy, I decidedly didn't like it either. Thank goodness that film got by on being pretty, because it really didn't have much else going on in the way of substance, yet with this film, you get to have your cake and eat it too, which is to be expected, because who better to direct a film about a wandering spirit bonding with a mortal than the guy who did... "Casper"? Okay, so maybe that cake isn't as filling as it should be, because although "Wings of Desire" got to be so overwhelmingly subtle to the point of being unsubtle again... and really dull, at least it had some subtlety. No, I'm kidding, this film has depth, though not quite enough for the film to entirely reward (Still certainly more rewarding than "Wings of Desire" though), for the critics weren't completely blowing smoke when they criticised this film, as it's not exactly without its own faults. Screenwriter Dana Stevens and director Brad Silberling aim to liven up the film and tell it in a more traditional fashion, yet not at the total expense of artistically dramatic storytelling, which is a worthy intention, though one that Silberling isn't especially built to handle as a director, for although the film still isn't nearly as slow as its source material, Silberling's attempts at creating meditativeness without dryness often botch, leaving the film to fall rather limp under the weight of its meditativeness, yet lack the poignancy that tends to emerge from a degree of dry atmosphere, even though it does tend to dull down the film it looms over. This limitation of dramatic punch, combined with the slowness spawned from underwhelming meditativeness, leaves the film's bite to momentarily find itself too far restrained, and it doesn't help that most of these handful of meditative moments are accompanied by loose editing, excess filler and even repetition, which pad out the film and, by extension, the slow spots, thus making the film even slower. Now, Dana Stevens' story structuring is in no way not at fault for the film's loose points of empty meditativeness, yet it's Silberling's direction that particularly damages the film's bite as a dramatic art piece, as his sensibilities aren't especially built for something this subtle, which isn't to say that the slow spots end with the more meditative spots, as the film is slow throughout, even during dialogue pieces, thus making it often a smidge disengaging, which is a situation exacerbated by the film's also succumbing to more pop sensibilities that get to be a little bit too Hollywood. Much of the charm that saved "Wings of Desire" came from its being so avant-garde and nonconformist to pop filmmaking sensibilities, whereas this film, even with its attempts at audacious dramatic artisty, falls victim to its Hollywood conventions, boasting anything from a weak mainsteam soundtrack and often obnoxiosly poppy score (The music over the "building jump" scene was pretty awesome though), to yet more faulty, Hollywood-esque writing by Dana Stevens, who definately doesn't fall short on genericisms or a few decidedly improvable dialogue pieces. The film dives back and forth between dramatic artistry or Hollywood convention, yet either way, there is a consistent aspect, and that is unsubtlety, as director Brad Silberling all too often fails to cut into the genuine essence of this film with grace, and instead provides obvious emotional strikes that aren't especially manipulative and are sometimes even a bit effective, yet often telegraph the film's drama, rather than meditating upon it, and while "Wings of Desire" failed as a dramatic piece even more by meditating more on the style rather than the substance, the fact of the matter is that this film doesn't meditate enough on the substance either. This story was worthy when it was introduced in "Wings of Desire", and its modifications for this remake might very well make it even more worthy, yet this film still fails to live up to its potential, not because it's meditative to the point of losing focus, but because it's not meditative or poignant enough, which leaves the audience to lose focus and film itself to tragically fall as rather underwhelming by its own right. Of course, at the end of the day, there is a truth that remains: This film is better than "Wings of Desire"... as well as enjoyable by its own right, for although the film is flawed and falls quite a bit short on its potential and promises, it keeps you going through and through. Though "Wings of Desire" was partially, if not largely saved by its commendable visual artistry, much of the impressiveness of Henri Alekan's cinematography went rather obscured by its being predominantly in black-and-white, while much of the impressiveness of John Seale's cinematography for this film goes somewhat obscured simply by being not all that especially upstanding for its time, yet make no mistake, there is impressiveness in Seale's cinematography, which is particularly made clear during certain magical shots over well-lit and colorful environments, as well as moments in which photography pulls clever staging moves that submerge you in the world and create a kind of wonderment that was found in and helped in saving "Wings of Desire", and certainly helps in making this film as enjoyable and, yes, even artistically impressive at it is. The film's artistic ambitions are sadly undercut either by pop filmmaking sensibilities or filmmaking sensibilities that are not adjusted to the subtlety this film should have, yet there is artstiry, and much of it is, in fact, genuinely effective, giving the film some depth and grace that may not be especially prevalent, but gives the film golden moments that director Brad Silberling actually manages to handle reasonably well more often than not. As I said, Silberling's resonance often lacks subtlety and bite, and often runs for the easy strikes, yet there are some occasions in which Silberling either does strike a chord with his less subtle emotional punches or really does find his subtle grip on depth. Either way, Silberling gets the resonance across, drawing from the potency of the subject matter with inspiration that grips and gives this film moments of genuine effectiveness -something that "Wings of Desire" did not, regardless of what the critics falsely said -, especially in the final act, which comes out of nowhere and delivers on actually pretty moving power. As I said, this story is a worthy one, and one that Silberling may not tell especially well, but definately tells better than Wim Wenders (Yes, I said it), boasting perhaps too ambition, yet no arrogance, being restrained just enough to hit golden occasions within this film, as well as keep a consistent level of engagement value that may often fault, but more often prevails in sustaining your investment, and the performers really do know how to help. There was very little for the performers of "Wings of Desire" to work with, and being that this doesn't have a whole heap of subtlety in its layout, you can expect the limiting in acting material to remain, yet considering the performers we have in this film, you can also expect what material there is to go played up well, with quite a few colorful people stealing the show with charm, as well as co-lead Meg Ryan helping in giving the film weight, portraying the spiritual revelations and depths faced by the Dr. Maggie Rice character with grace and, on occasions, even a bit of emotional range, while going matched by our other lead, or rather, our primary focus. In "Wings of Desire", Bruno Ganz delivered a reasonably engaging performance as the Damiel character, yet one that was written with less layers than what Ganz tried to provide in his acting execution, and in this film, our primary Seth character also finds himself providing little material for Nicolas Cage to work with, yet what the lead role does provide goes nailed by Cage, as the Seth character is initially distanced from humanity, yet still holds angelic compassion towards the humans, and as he falls into their world and becomes them, he unlocks sensations that could change his mindset, thus making for a lead role that's not quite as layered as I just now made it sound, yet still presents a challenge for Cage, who succeeds with ease by portraying the initial sobered spiritedness of this sober spirit with his trademark smooth charisma, as well as what layers there are within the Seth character with a deeply assured presence and, on occasions, even powerful emotion that defines the Seth character as a deeply compelling lead, who stands among the many reasons why this film stands as more engaging and enjoyable than not, even with its undercuts that render it ultimately rather underwhelming. In the end, while the film is certainly stronger than its mess of an original, it still falls short on its potential, going held back by consistent slowness that stands at its most intense during botched meditative moments - made worse by padding filler and moderate repetition -, as well as by collapses into very Hollywood sensibilities, from weak music to immensely generic, sometimes cheesy and altogether faulty writing, and, perhaps most of all, by a tragically profound lack of subtlety that leaves the aforementioned missteps to glare even more intensely and the film itself to fall as disengagingly faulty as an artistic and dramatic piece, yet one that never falls too far from grace, being supported by handsome visual artistry, as well as a strong and mostly reasonably well-structured story that really goes sparked to life by golden occasions of inspiration amidst a consistent charm within Brad Silberling's direction, as well as by an engagingly charming cast - from which leads Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage stand out -, thus leaving "City of Angels" to stand as a generally entertaining, consistently enjoyable and ultimately worth watching improvement upon "Wings of Desire", even if it too stands as rather underwhelming. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 19, 2012
    City of Angels starts out with a lot of promise and potential, but ends up squandering it. Nicolas Cage plays an angel who becomes infatuated with a human woman (Meg Ryan), and contemplates falling to Earth to become human so that he can be with her. Unfortunately, the romance comes off as forced and Cage and Ryan don't have very good chemistry. The depiction of angels in the film is quite interesting, but never gets explored in any depth, nor does much else. There are many interesting concepts and idea in City of Angels, but the film doesn't know what to do with them.
    Dann M Super Reviewer

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