Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Film review--Miracle Mile

starring Anthony Edwards, Mare Winningham, Denise Crosby, John Agar, and Bret Michaels as The Beav.

A swing band dork named Harry (Edwards) in Los Angeles finds the girl of his dreams (Winningham) and they set a date for that evening.  While waiting for her, Harry happens to answer a pay phone.  It's a wrong number from a young man in a missile silo in North Dakota, trying to reach his dad to say goodbye before the U.S. launches its entire nuclear arsenal at the (then) Soviet Union.  Is this guy for real?  And if so, can Harry get his girl and bring her to the evacuation plane in just forty-five minutes?

There is more than a dollop of 1980s cheese here.  There are contrivances and stock characters galore, yet the film is oddly compelling.  I think that this stems from two factors, at least for me personally.  One is that once Harry answers the pay phone, everything plays out in real-time.  While this appears commonplace to a contemporary audience weened on TV like 24 and films like Haggis' (Mike, not Kip) Timecode, this was a very innovative concept back in the 1980s.  A fast-paced thriller essentially plays out in that 45 minute time span.  An added dimension is the threat of nuclear annihilation.  For anyone my age who grew up with that particular Sword of Damocles hanging above their heads, this is especially chilling.  The concept of that 45 minute lag-time between the initial launch of an ICBM and the inevitable retaliatory strike with the ensuing nuclear aftermath...well, I've always found it most sadistic.  Better almost not to know what's coming and be surprised, I've always thought.  In the case of this film, people in L.A. eventually begin to figure out what's happening and we see society start to complete come apart.  People behave little better than panicked animals, something I am certain would be the case if such a horror would befall us.  For whatever cheesiness this movie has, it captures that aspect very well.  Given the dread, the paranoia, and the (SPOILER) unhappy ending by today's standards, I believe that this film deserves a place in the apocrypha of nuclear war fiction.

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