With the solidarity and professionalism of the self-sufficient, exclusively male group, you’d think The Spirit of St Louis was a Hawks movie. Made nowadays you’d expect the straight-faced tale of heroism vs obstacles of Spielberg, especially considering his latent obsession with aviation. An account of the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris, that wonderful hub of transparent idealism James Stewart is perfectly suited to the material – even if the 48 year old star is a tad too, uh, experienced to play the 25 year old Charles Lindbergh. But Wilder is of course much more cynical. Put this aside Ace in the Hole and you couldn’t find a more stark contrast.
Nevertheless he handles it well – the not-so-cinematic flight (so much expository narration!) punctuated by biographical flashbacks. The spectacle is consistently impressive, and it’s surprising how funny the comic flight stunts are. The initial takeoff scene, meanwhile, is a superb suspense piece. And watching a sleep-deprived Stewart trying to do basic math sums is worth the watch in itself.