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Always (1989) Classic Movie Review

Hot Shot

Always (1989) is Stephen Spielberg’s remake of A Guy Called Joe, except that instead of pilots in war, the movie setting is `tankers’ bombing forest fires until they stop burning. The movie stars Richard Dreyfuss (`Pete’), Holly Hunter (`Dorinda’), John Goodman (`Al’), Audrey Hepburn (`Hap’) and (then) newcomer Brad Johnson (who will show up in another flying movie, Flight of the Intruder, 1991, shortly thereafter). There are some other stars in Always, more invisible then than now, such as Keith David (`Powerhouse’ in the Film) and Marg Helgenberger (CSI).

Always is one of few movies shot in the Inland Northwest (Montana and Washington). And so for those of us who live in this seemingly more isolated part of the country, it is a treat to see `us’ and `our place’ in cinema. Out here precipitation comes mostly in winter; it comes in the form of snow; it melts, swelling the streams; and by summer everything is dry. Forests catch fire; and the fire(s) spread rapidly; people fight them, many on the ground, and some from above.

Always is about a hot-shot tanker pilot (Dreyfuss, as `Pete’), living over the edge to drop retardant on forest fires. But Pete is the only one who loves the way Pete flies. “There is no war here,” confronts Al (Goodman), Pete’s flying partner. Dorinda (Hunter) lays it on the line: ” … if you were risking your life for civilization, … or (for) another life,” and Pete must decide between the life of hot-shot flying, or her. Pete decides for Dorinda, but accepts one last mission.

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On the mission Al’s plane catches fire. To save Al, Pete drops his retardant on Al’s burning engine, but in the process his plane hits burning trees; his plane catches fire, and explodes.

We next see Pete walking in a smoldering forest. In an instant six months have passed. He meets angelic Hap (Hepburn), and learns that he is dead. Hap has one last mission for Pete. He must pass on what he has; he must be `spirit’, `inspiration’, to another pilot. Little does he know that he will be `inspiration’ to Ted Baker (Johnson) who will next be the one Dorinda loves.

In Always, we see there is pain in death, and the pain is in the love that we never give away. Pete never could quite say the words `I love you’. Dead, Pete uses his `inspiration’ to stand in the way of the relationship of Ted and Dorinda. Pete has another meeting with Hap, and Hap is happy. Pete is not passing the test. Pete is still living for himself; Pete still clings to Dorinda; now Pete must let her go.

Always climaxes with Dorinda stealing Ted’s plane; stealing his rescue mission; saving a fire crew on the ground, but hitting burning trees herself, and crashes the plane in a lake. As the plane sinks and fills with water, Pete makes one final contact with Dorinda, tells her he loves her, and lets her go.

The movie has adventure, and comedy, and some would say drama, and is rated PG. It was originally distributed in VHS format, but can be purchased in DVD format at the following:

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Turner Classic Movies


Always (1989 Film), wikipedia.org.