Saturday, May 30, 2015

MIRACLE MILE (1988) - Steve De Jarnatt

Yet another End Times '80s flick I resisted for far too long. I'd heard whisperings over the years from random strangers about Miracle Mile being a juicy day-in-the-life nuclear thriller (shot mostly at night). Like Anthony Edwards receiving his accidental 3 A.M. payphone warning call from a missile silo in North Dakota, I guess I didn't want to believe the shocking, unfathomable news. A quality apocalypse thriller starring the Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds and the other actress from St. Elmo's Fire? Directed by the guy who co-wrote Strange Brew (a classic comedy but, still a comedy)? All taking place within a mile of the La Brea Tar Pits?

Well, I'm here alive to tell is so. Miracle Mile lives up to its quiet, low-key hype. As a last day on earth love story and a disturbing doomsday scenario, it works on several levels with some oddball After Hours humor thrown in and one out of the blue Eddie "Mr. Blue" Bunker cameo (armed above). Though it tells the "biggest story of all" (the destruction of the Earth by nuclear warheads), it's a movie made of smaller moments, idiosyncratic character details. You actually care about the people who are about to be vaporized. You're constantly thinking "hurry, hurry, hurry" because you want them to catch that last ditch chopper to Arctic safety (which, let's be honest, probably wouldn't save them anyway) and not just because you want the movie to hurry up and end.

The film really only has one "money shot," the scene with Edwards on the hood of a car looking out over a traffic-choked street with matte painting explosions in the distance. The scene is harrowing, but Miracle Mile doesn't really need it. The scope of impending danger you get from the characters, the offbeat occurrences in margins of the story, sometimes caught in the corners of the frame. A cop catching on fire in the distance. A coyote come down from the canyons to eat in an abandoned diner. A man and woman rutting with abandon in the alleyway as our chaste, doomed couple flees down the sidewalk. Or what about This Guy (below) on the roof, taking some unnamed mind-melting hallucinogen and screaming into the sky "This better not be just another earthquake!"

I'm kinda glad I didn't see this movie when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure it would've scared the beejeezies out of me. The Day After had already shell-shocked me bad enough. It's the perfect storm of all my childhood Reagan Era fears (nuclear holocaust, woolly mammoths trapped in quicksand, first loves). And, ATOMIC SPOILER ALERT, it doesn't cheat on the downbeat, black as tar ending. The only thing that disturbed more now than it would have then was Mare Winningham's extreme business up front, party in the back mullet. Oof, what a unfortunate look on such a nice lady! I'll take the apocalypse over that haircut any day.

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