Someone once said to me that there are only four basic movie plots: the first, boy meets girl: the second, man against apparently insuperable odds: the others.....I can't remember. Although I am not by nature agoraphobic, I guess when it comes to cinema I prefer the cosily domestic to wide open spaces. Every so often, however, I find myself responding to man battling it out against the elements, particularly if the point is being made that, without the sheer determination of an individual to grapple with prejudice and ignorance, civilization would not gain a pace or two forward. Billy Wilder's epic of human endeavour, "The Spirit of St. Louis", is just such an instance. It is heaps better than most in this category mainly through the excellent central performance by James Stewart as Charles Lindbergh, the first successful transatlantic flyer. True, Stewart was twice the age of the man he was portraying but he brilliantly manages the demeanour of a much younger person and has the advantage of being one of the very few actors able to convey the determined obsessive fanaticism that Lindbergh must have possessed. One can admire Wilder's skill in sustaining audience interest throughout what is essentially a one character and a one scene film but he achieves it through interspersing the present from the night before the takeoff, with flashbacks that retell the background to the mission, each a little story in itself, some quite tense such as Lindbergh's adventurous flight during a blizzard when he was a flying mail courier and others rather droll such as giving a flying lesson to a priest who is the most incompetent would-be aviator ever. The main journey once it gets going is mainly smooth and something of a leisurely travelogue with nice views over Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on the way. Far more dramatic is the takeoff during foul weather from a rain drenched runway in which Stewart grapples with his tiny aircraft narrowly clearing pylons and a clump of trees. The miracle that so flimsy a machine could make it not only for a few miles but across a vast ocean is reinforced by the hazardous implications of this wonderfully atmospheric sequence in a way that make the journey and the arrival in Paris quite uplifting.