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Film / City of Angels

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City of Angels is a 1998 film starring Nicolas Cage (far from his Nicolas Rage roots), Meg Ryan, and Sarah McLachlan's music. It's actually a Foreign Remake of a classic German film, Wim Wenders' 1987 drama Wings of Desire. Cage plays an angel who falls in love with Meg Ryan's character, a doctor, and chooses to fall from grace and become human.

This film provides example of:

  • Angels in Overcoats: Seth and Castiel are angels who wear mundane-looking overcoats instead of something you'd expect from angels, like pearly white robes or such. This is in-keeping with the source material.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After Maggie's death, Seth is consumed with grief and despair over having lost her and even wonders if he is being punished. However, a talk with Castiel has him realize that the temporary nature of the relationship was what gave it meaning and he ends up being able to feel and immerse in being human.
  • Cool Old Guy: Nathaniel Messinger, a former Angel who chose to become human.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Seth. In order to be with the woman he loves, he undergoes an irreversible ritualistic process to become human. Then she promptly gets killed due to her own carelessness.
  • Death of a Child: The film opens with a very sick little girl dying in the emergency room, and Seth escorting her spirit to Heaven.
  • Defector from Paradise: An angel falls in love with a human and chooses to "fall", become human, in order to be with her, leaving Heaven.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Maggie's sudden death is considered this though the subtext of the film implies this is intentional with life's sudden cruelty.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted. Maggie is an atheist until she receives proof that an angel is real. Both before and after she's a nice woman.
  • Humanity Ensues: Messinger and, eventually, Seth.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Messinger, who can sense Angels. It's because he used to be one.
  • Idiot Ball: Maggie probably would have noticed that truck pull out in front of her bike if she'd kept her eyes open and on the road.
  • I Never Told You My Name: A variation. Seth calls Maggie by name and when asked points out that she's wearing a name tag. Later, she pulls off the name tag and it only shows her last name.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Seth's incredible beauty is often remarked upon. Seth is played by Nicolas Cage. One reviewer has commented that Meet Joe Black, released around the same time, has far more convincing casting for an impossibly beautiful angel of death in Brad Pitt at his very prettiest.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Seth's attempt at an alias, "Seth Plate", is immediately shot down.
  • Mood Lighting: The movie mostly takes place at sunrise, sunset, or in soft/dim light, which gives the movie a powerfully emotional feel. It's like a lighting version of Scenery Porn.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Other than in the title, the movie's angels are never referred to as such.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They walk around in black trenchcoats, look human, speak any language, can travel instantaneously, and can choose whether humans can see them. They have no sense of touch, taste or smell, cannot see color and do not feel fear. They also can choose to become human by literally falling, suicide-style.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Jordan, fairly obviously. He vanishes from the movie completely once Seth finally hooks up with Maggie.
  • Single Tear: Seth, when he realizes Maggie has died.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Angels cannot feel human emotions like fear and love.