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Miracle Mile

Year: 1988
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: Steve De Jarnatt
Writer: Steve De Jarnatt
Cast: Anthony Edwards, Mare Winningham, Denise Crosby, Mykelti Williamson, Robert Doqui
I can't remember what prompted me to want to watch this movie, but what a pleasant surprise it was.

It starts as a boy meets girl story with Harry (Edwards, in a post- Top Gun glow at the time) meeting Lucy (Winningham) in LA and nature taking its course. After arranging to meet her after work at her all night coffee shop job in the middle of the night, he sleeps through his alarm and misses the appointment by three hours.

When he arrives at the shop in a frantic state Lucy's nowhere to be seen, obviously having gone home, and instead he has only the motley and disparate patrons of the establishment for company.

Cursing his bad luck and wondering what to do, the story takes a From Dusk Till Dawn turn when he answers the payphone that's been ringing outside the diner.

It's a panicky man thinking he's called his father but who's actually called the wrong number, claiming to be working in a military missile silo. He tells Harry nuclear war is descending and missiles are on their way from Russia, due to arrive in 50 minutes.

Harry tells the panicked patrons and the cold, calculating stockbroker (Crosby) starts to make calls, trying to organise an evacuation including a chopper and airport flight.

Harry hightails it to retrieve Lucy and her grandparents before death descends, and most of the movie deals with him trying to make his way back and forth across LA in the small hours of the morning making things happen so he and Lucy can reach safety.

It feels for most of the film like a comedy and despite having plenty of laughs, it's not. It also feels like it has a very 80s, neon/Michael Mann/ Miami Vice aesthetic (especially with the soundtracking by 80s synthesiser sensation Tangerine Dream), but it's no cheesy TV movie, so full of profanity and occasionally shocking violence it's almost outright horror.

Despite the comedy, it's also really effective in a Dawn of the Dead way with a sense of slowly descending doom. We never see anything other than from Harry's perspective, and as the sun rises and the 50 minutes pass, he starts to think it was a prank all along or even that he's losing his mind and imagined the phone call.

But as LA comes to life, carnage and panic spreads and Harry and Lucy are left trying to reach the heliport rendezvous on the roof of an office building through the terror and violence all around them.

What's most memorable about the film though is that it has all the makings of a cult classic. Some of the scenes, characters and story developments are so wildly kooky as to be outright comic, like Harry finally finding a chopper pilot in a muscle-bound, gay gym junkie or the terminally enraged guy who the stockbroker has recruited to get provisions together on the roof.

Something about it reminded me of Repo Man with its quirky combination of elements and story of one man's struggle to make sense of an event that threatens to stop the world.

It would be the nastiest spoiler of all to say whether Harry's dreamed the whole thing or Russian missiles fall on Los Angeles, but while there's a certain disaster movie fascination to see the latter, the arc of the movie leads to a satisfying conclusion.

It's not a David Lynch movie, with a whole lot of second-guessing about what's going on. Everything is quite straightforward. It's just all stuff only a screenwriter (the guy who did Cherry Forever but has done nothing since) could dream up.

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