Saturday, June 3, 2023

#2,912. Miracle Mile (1988) - Thrillers of the '80s and '90s


What an intense experience Miracle Mile is! What a gloriously exciting and captivating motion picture! I am late to the party; this is the first time I’ve seen writer / director Steve De Jarnatt’s 1988 tale of love set against a coming apocalypse, and it blew me away!

While touring the La Brea Tar Pits, Harry (Anthony Edwards) meets Julie (Mare Winningham), and it isn’t long before the two are deeply in love.

One night, the power goes out at Harry’s hotel, and because his alarm never went off, he over-sleeps and misses his third date with Julie. Despite it being almost 4 am, Harry rushes to the coffee shop where Julie works, only to find she has gone home.

But fate is about to rear its ugly head. Stepping outside to call Julie from a phone booth to explain what happened, Harry is surprised when the phone suddenly rings, and he decides to answer it. The voice on the other end, believing he is talking to his father, claims to be a soldier in a North Dakota Nuclear silo, and starts shouting that the country is at war. The missiles have been launched, and Los Angeles has about an hour before it will be obliterated.

Not sure whether to believe the call or not, Harry tells the late-night patrons of the coffee shop, one of whom is Landa (Denise Crosby), who has connections in Washington D.C. Making a few calls on her mobile phone, Landa corroborates that something is, indeed, going down (many government officials have already left the country), and arranges for everyone in the coffee shop to get out of town on a private jet.

Desperate to save Julie and her grandparents (John Agar and Lou Hancock), Harry breaks away from the group and heads for Julie’s apartment. Landa has a helicopter, filled with life-sustaining supplies, set to land on top of the Mutual Benefit building. Realizing the clock is ticking, Harry’s plan is to get Julie and her grandparents to that building before 5 am so they can hitch a ride to the airport and fly to safety.

And thus begins one of the most nerve-racking thrillers I have seen in some time.

Armed with a gun belonging to Fred (Robert DoQui), the coffee shop’s owner, Harry flags down a car and threatens to shoot unless the driver, Wilson (Mykelti Williamson), takes him first to Julie, then the helicopter landing pad. Of course, once Harry tells Wilson why he’s so anxious to get out of L.A., Wilson says he has to save his sister, and eventually leaves Harry in the lurch (but not before a jaw-dropping confrontation between the two and a couple of unsuspecting cops at a gas station).

Aided by Tangerine Dream’s incredibly effective score, Miracle Mile gets more intense with each passing scene, and will have you poised on the edge of your seat for the duration. There were moments I was literally yelling at my screen, telling Harry to get a move on.

And my guess is your reaction will be about the same. Though it supposedly plays out in real-time, far too much transpires in the 45-50 minutes before the shit hits the fan, and we simply don’t believe everything could have happened within that allotted time.

But while the believable passage of time may not be the film’s strongest suit, it is also its only weakness. Edwards and Winningham generate tons of chemistry, and we fully believe their love story, which means we’re as invested in seeing them stay together as the characters themselves. Throw in about a half-dozen “WTF” moments, some deep drama, and a final act you won’t soon forget, and you have a motion picture that, even with the Cold War now over, will frighten the hell out of you!
Rating: 9 out of 10

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