Miracle Mile (1988) Review – Romance and an Apocalypse

I once saw this film on a Watchmojo.com top ten list (I won’t say which one because that will give the ending even though I’m going to give away the ending anyway) and thought it looked really interesting. I have a morbid fascination with films about Nuclear war and the 80’s was a decade that was rife with them what with the whole ‘Cold War’ thing. This film is no different and I thought it was really good. It didn’t scare me as much as ‘Threads’ which can only be a good thing.

The film starts with a man, Harry (Anthony Edwards) meeting Julie (Mare Winningham) at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and they instantly fall in love. They arrange to meet up at Midnight after Julie’s shift ends at a coffee shop. However, a power failure means that Harry’s alarm doesn’t wake him and when he does wake, he realises what has happened and races to the coffee shop but he’s four hours too late.

He tries to call her on the payphone outside but to no avail. However, the phone starts ringing and Harry answers. The man on the other end is a soldier called Chip who works in a missile silo and he’s frantic. Trying to call his father from North Dakota, Chip tells Harry that not only is Nuclear War imminent, it’s coming in less than 70 minutes. Then there are sounds of gunshots and another voice on the phone tells Harry to forget everything he’s heard and to ‘go back to sleep’. Harry tells the people in the diner and mysterious woman called Landa (Denise Crosby) calls some politicians and Harry’s story is confirmed. Landa arranges a helicopter for the diner residents to escape the blast zone but Harry can’t leave without Julie and so begins a race against the clock to find Julie and survive the end of the world.

I recognise a lot of people in this film.

Denise Crosby (Landa) was in ‘Star Trek: Next Generation’; Anthony Edwards (Harry) was Dr Mark Greene in ‘ER’, Mykelti Williamson (Wilson) was Bubba in ‘Forrest Gump’, Kurt Fuller (Gerstead) I recognise from a lot of things but the thing that comes to mind is ‘Scary Movie’, Brian Thompson (Helicopter Pilot) was in a few episodes of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, Earl Boen (Drunk Man in Diner) was Dr Silberman in the first three ‘Terminator’ films and Robert DoQui was Sergeant Reed in the Robocop films. I think that’s it.

I have a suspicion that the premise was to make it a little bit more of a mystery. Is the attack real or is Harry causing mass hysteria for no reason? Landa doesn’t outwardly confirm that missiles are heading their way, but she assumes it because her contact tells her that important politicians are going the ‘Extreme Southern Hemisphere’.

It’s clear where a lot of this budget went. It had $3.7 Million to spend and since about ¾ of the film is spent with things being largely fine, you’re expecting an exciting and action-packed last act. When shit does go sideways, that’s when you can see the dollar signs start to appear.

The plot is an interesting theoretical dilemma. If you knew the world was going to end in just over an hour, what would you do? Would you try and survive it with your loved ones or would you stay put and accept your fate? Would you want to live in a post nuclear word? I’m sure an EMP knocks out the internet and I know I don’t want to live in that world.

Instead, Harry chooses the love of the woman he met that morning and desperately wants to save her. The harshness of the time limit gives limited options and a lot of the options will be driven by panic. You have to come to terms with the situation and get everyone you care about to a save place in the length of a TV movie. Also, they’re in Los Angeles and big cities are usually targets in a nuclear attack so getting away from the blast zone would probably take about an hour in a car. That ‘helicopter’ idea probably isn’t that great, I know I wouldn’t want to be in the sky when a nuclear missile strikes. Human nature dictates that we have a survival instinct so even in the face of imminent destruction, we’ll do what we can to survive.

I’m going to give away the ending now, so this is your spoiler warning. If you want to watch it yourself then know that I recommend this film.

I would have preferred a little more ambiguity as to whether this was real or not. I think it would have been a neat twist to have the Nuclear war not happen as it would have spoken volumes about the media at the time. Movies, novels and TV shows about the Cold War escalating and it didn’t end up happening.

Having everything be totally fine instead of what actually happens would have been an excellent commentary on the times.

These days, we don’t see so much about Nuclear war because the point of having a war is that you something whether it be power, control or something that someone else has (like oil) but if everyone gets nuked then there’s nothing left anywhere so there’s literally no point. Nuclear weapons have put us all in the ultimate stalemate. No one will use them because no one will survive.

Having said all that, once you promise a Nuclear war (in a film) you have to deliver because let’s face it, total mutually assured destruction is what your audience is there for. Why do you think disaster movies do so well? With the technology that we have these days, we know how to blow stuff up ion the silver screen.

I say ‘these days’. This film was the 80’s and so although you don’t see a mushroom cloud of the likes of ‘The Day After’ which looked more like a lava lamp, the world does end.

Altogether, it’s a little bit strange because we don’t get a reason as to how this happened. There are no lingering shots of newspapers showing growing tensions between the superpowers, no radio announcements or even TV reports, which adds to the mystery of whether or not the coming apocalypse is real.

All in all, good movie. Sadly, Miracle Mile didn’t make half of it’s money back but the reviews were favourable which I suppose makes this a ‘cult’ film. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.


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