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Is it the End of the World or Just a Sick Joke?

  • Jan 27, 2009
MIRACLE MILE is above all a love story; boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boys runs frantically around L.A. trying to get heavily sedated girl on an airplane bound for the antarctic. But perhaps I should start at the beginning as Harry Washello does when he tells his story of how he came to meet his perfect girl after 30 lonely years on planet earth, and I'm not kidding--he really goes back to the beginning. To the very dawn of creation in fact, 15 billion years ago when a tremendous burst of pure energy spread swirling clouds of star stuff that eventually formed the galaxies. I'll skip the next few billion years of planet formation, evolution etc to get down to the real business at hand--the day Harry met Julie Peters at the La Brea tar pits' museum. It was love at first sight, and it was in some ways both the best thing and the worst thing that every happened to them both.They spent the rest of the day together doing the type of things that only people falling in love in movies do; riding a carousel, liberating lobsters from a restaurant tank, and so forth. Later that night, when Julia got off her job at Johnnie's Diner, they planned to go dancing.

Harry goes back to his hotel to get some sleep before their big date, and before lying down he casually tosses a cigarette off his balcony. This one insignificant act will change the course of the rest of his life and hundreds of thousands of others. A bird carries off the still smouldering cigarette to use in its nest which then catches fire and knocks out the electricity in Harry's building. By the time the power is restored and his clock finally goes off, he is 3 hours late for his date with Julie. On the off-hand chance that she might still be there, he races off to the diner. His car bumps into a palm tree in the parking lot eerily dislodging four or five rats onto the hood of his car. Out front of the diner the neighborhood psychotic is raving about whatever those guys rave about. The phone in the phone booth is ringing. Julie is nowhere to be seen. She long ago went home to the condo she shares with her grandmother and took a nice heavy dose of Valium.

In another one of those life altering twists of fate Harry winds up answering the ringing pay phone, and what he hears on the other end of the line sends him staggering into the coffee shop. The man on the other end of the line, Chip, was nearly hysterical. He thought he was calling his father, but it was obviously a wrong number--he had dialed the wrong area code. He had said that we had fired our missiles in a pre-emptive strike and that we would be getting it back in an hour and ten. He was talking about nuclear war! "Tell Dad I'm sorry about that summer!" And then there was a commotion, gun fire, and another voice came on the line and said, "Forget everything you just heard and go back to sleep." Only one person in the coffee shop takes what Harry has to say the least bit seriously, a regular patron named Landa, a woman who obviously has a bit of money and whose opinion everyone seems to respect. She asks Harry to repeat exactly what he heard, and its more than enough to convince her. She makes a few telephone calls of her own and then then announces that "4 out of 5 of her friends are in transit to the extreme southern hemisphere" which she finds more than a mere coincidence. Before you can say "make a plan" Landa is making one. And anyone who can keep up with her is welcome to go along. The plan? Meet at The Mutual Benefit Life Building and take a helicopter to the airport and then a plane to the antarctic where there will be plenty of snow for water, rainfall is negligible, and fallout will be at a minimum.With Landa's acceptance of the phone call as fact, chaos and panic breaks out in the diner.

Not everyone is buying all of this however. The local drag queen points out Los Angeles is crammed full of actors with insomnia and nothing better to do than pull elaborate pranks. Just exactly who is Landa, we and some of the characters wonder? Could she just be another part of a highly involved prank? Are we supposed to take her word as gospel because she dated a guy who worked for the Rand Corporation? It doesn't matter, everyone else believes her. She even has two people making a list of "great minds" who should be contacted in order to make the trip with them. Their highly dated list includes "Tom and Jane. Danny Berrigan and his brother, Bobby Seale, Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, and Oprah. Say, has anybody got their phone numbers?" They've all crammed into the diner's catering van, promising Harry that they'll pick up Julie on the way--which, of course, is a lie. So Harry bails out as they slow down on the freeway ramp and heads back in the general direction of Julie's condo--he can't leave his one in a million girl to die in a nuclear holocaust.

MIRACLE MILE is very simply the most frightening, touching, funny, thought provoking, romantic,(did I say frightening?) movie you are ever going to see. Writer/director Steve DeJarnatt has crafted a nearly perfect film that keeps you wondering up until the very end whether Harry is truly the harbinger of doom or the first victim of a horrible prank, a real life Chicken Little whose unwitting participation in a very sick joke will cause the death of countless numbers of innocent people. He's aided by a cast that can't help but elicit the audience's immediate sympathies. Anthony Edwards plays the likeable, good natured Harry Washello who is very much the everyman, unable to control the events around him but determined to at least be with the woman he loves now that he has finally found her. Mare Winningham has that sort of oddball vibe that is needed for the role of a woman who can fall in love at first sight, and she is charmingly kookie as Julie. The only other characters of any real consequence are Julie's embittered grandparents (played by John Agar and Lou Hancock) who haven't spoken for 15 years but are as much in love as ever, and Mykel T. Williamson as a petty crook who named Wilson who gets caught up in Harry's nightmare via a chance meeting on a freeway ramp. Even the film's musical score by Tangerine Dream, which is something I ordinarily would never even notice much less mention, is exceptionally effective. It deserves special recognition for creating the tense and eerie mood that enables the film to succeed in hitting us where we live.


The ending of this film is beautifully constructed, it takes us right back to the beginning in every sense. Not only are we back in the La Brea tar pits, not only are we seeing the end of our own species as we saw the end of the dinosaurs and the mammoths portrayed earlier, we are also back to the beginning of Harry and Julie's relationship--back to the place where they first met, and maybe we are also back to the dawn of creation in a sense as well.

Trying to calm Julie who is hysterical as the helicopter sinks into the tar pit Harry says hopefully, "Maybe we'll take a direct hit! It'll metamorphosize us. Superman, he can take a lump of coal, he can squeeze it and make a diamond."

Julie: "Us, diamonds?"

Then there's a tremendous burst of pure energy.

HYPE FACTOR: Released to critical acclaimand deservedly so. It works on every level.
Is it the End of the World or Just a Sick Joke? Is it the End of the World or Just a Sick Joke? Is it the End of the World or Just a Sick Joke? Is it the End of the World or Just a Sick Joke? Is it the End of the World or Just a Sick Joke?

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July 19, 2010
Yes indeed this is a great film Queen, there is another film that is kinda like this but I can't remember what it is called. I do remember that Michael Rapaport is in it.
July 21, 2010
There was a great BBC movie called THREADS that's much older than this one and of course the American TV movie (not too sure of the title) THE DAY AFTER or something like that. But I went to IMDb and couldn't find a title that sounded right under Rappaport's name.
July 22, 2010
I may be thinking of some one else but "The Day After" is indeed a good one, I own that one, I need to watch it again.
July 23, 2010
It wasn't nearly as good as THREADS. If you see that one pounce on it immediately!
January 27, 2009
If it were a film that had been made recently it might have addressed those issues, but since its an older film it skippedover them with just enough references to plant doubt in your mind as to whether we were really headed for nuclear war or not.
January 27, 2009
Good to see you Trashie!
More Miracle Mile reviews
review by . May 19, 2009
Miracle Mile is one of the last movies to be made dealing with the subject of Thermonuclear War during the lovable eighties. This cult classic is not a bad film by any means but a good film that's a few steps away from being a real classic.  I really enjoyed how the director was able to create a lot of scenes of havoc and chaos on such a small budget.      The movie starts off with the protagonist (Anthony Edwards) narrating his life story. His mundane but interesting job …
About the reviewer
karen ()
Ranked #17
I am the poster child for inertia. Where ever I am is where I plan to stay FOREVER.   So much so in fact that it took me decades to understand the punchline about why   the chicken … more
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About this movie



Director: Steve De Jarnatt
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: September 11, 1988
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: June 3, 2003
Runtime: 87 minutes
Studio: MGM, Hemdale Films
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