Film / Miracle Mile

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Miracle Mile is a 1988 apocalyptic thriller written and directed by Steve De Jarnatt (Cherry 2000).

Harry (Anthony Edwards) makes a date with Julie (Mare Winningham), but his alarm clock fails to ring and he oversleeps. Instead, Harry receives an anonymous phone call, and the panicked caller tells him that nuclear strikes have been ordered, and all-out nuclear war will begin within the hour.

The call turns out to be a wrong number, the caller is interrupted by someone else who tells him it was a joke as gunfire is heard in the background, and Harry is left wondering whether the news is legitimate. The remainder of the film is spent more or less in Real Time as Harry looks for Julie, tries to confirm the news, and wonders what to do next.

Major spoilers below. By all means stop reading any further if you never saw the film before and want to enjoy it fully.


Miracle Mile provides examples of:

  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Since the message keeps on spreading without any confirmation from anyone over the course of the film, by third act it hits the point where entire city reaches the state of panic and utter chaos emerges within minutes. Harry starts to seriously question what have he done after witnessing the carnage.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1; if the voice on the phone is telling the truth, much of the United States and Soviet Union are dead.
  • Armies Are Evil: They've probably started World War III, without any prior indications of tense international situation or ongoing conflict. And they want to keep it secret from their own civilian population.
  • Cold War: Possibly giving way to World War III.
  • The Conspiracy: Apparently, someone deliberately wants to keep the public uninformed about incoming missiles, killing launch technicians in the process.
  • Deadline News: The newscast about "reports of panic caused by unconfirmed nuclear attack" cuts to a reporter on the streets who gets shot in the next 10 seconds. The cameraman is shot soon after. And technically even the anchorman will be this once the nukes drop.
  • Death by Genre Savviness: Sure, the streets are going to get packed. But that won't happen right now. Harry could've been able to get to the airport on a car without a problem for most of the time.
  • For Want of a Nail: If his alarm clock had rung, Harry would have been out with Julie and wouldn't have gotten the phone call. Harry realizes this in the third act, and wonders why he couldn't just have found out like everybody else.
    • If Julie had just waited for Harry at the heliport, they would've made it to the airport with time to spare.
    • Even earlier, Harry could've simply waited for Julie's parents to take them to the airport. The streets don't get packed until the last 15 minutes.
  • Fetch Quest: A seemingly never-ending strings of those happens to Harry. It eventually get him and Julie killed, since he wasted almost entire time they had without progressing even a step toward safety.
  • Genre Shift: From Romantic Comedy to apocalyptic drama. It even manages to mislead the audience, as the first scenes are shown as if happening in the future, with Harry having lost Julie.
  • Genre Savvy: The diner's owner. He wastes no time loading up on canned goods, and floors it to the airport. He doesn't let Harry go for Julie because he knows that anyone else would immediately ask to pick up their loved ones as well, sending them all into a Fetch Quest, losing valuable time. This is, in fact, what happens to Harry; everyone he asks for help will inevitably want to pick up someone else. Harry loses a lot of time because of this.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The film starts as an ordinary romance between two quirky young adults, until Harry gets the phone call.
  • Hero of Another Story: Since the film is loaded with dozens of characters, but focuses on Harry's adventures exclusively, it's a given. There are all the diner patrons, the thief between meeting Harry for the first and second time, the yuppies at the skyscraper's roof, the pilot between his flights, Julie's parents...
  • Hope Spot: Inverted. The helicopter to safety is always there at hand's reach. Harry is simply busy going around it all the time, for various reasons.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The diner's owner steadfast refusal to do anything else than going straight to the airport with as much supplies as he can carry. At this point, wasting even few seconds on just about anything can be lethal, so he doesn't even slow down that much when Harry jumps out of the truck.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The home video cover pretty much gives away that the call is real.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: For a story told in Real Time, the film is crowded to the brim with characters, each of them playing their own part and each with their own story going on.
  • Manly Gay: The pilot and his boyfriend manage to be and act manly. All while wearing spandex and '80s Hair.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Harry after Julie tells him all of this was just a cruel prank, since they've should be dead already. And even after she is proven wrong and the missiles are really closing in, Harry is still in shock due to the widespread carnage he caused.
  • Prank Call: It is not made clear until the third act if the call was genuine or just an elaborate prank.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Justified. The group from the diner consists of random strangers, who all happend to be in the joint in the middle of the night, ranging from bussinesswoman to homeless hobo. From what's seen, they create a suprisingly effective team.
  • Real Time: After the opening, the story is told exclusively in real time.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog / Downer Ending: Harry and Julie spend most of the movie trying to get to safety. They don't make it; their helicopter is affected by the EMP and crashes in the La Brea Tar Pits. Cue credits.
  • Trope Breaker: The story requires both widespread public phones and lack of cell phones to work.
  • Unreliable Expositor: The anonymous caller. The entire suspense of the film is build around the inability to check if his call was real.
  • The Voice: The caller and whoever picked the phone after shooting him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The film is told entirely from Harry's perspective, so we never find out what happened to the other diner patrons or staff. When the car thief reappears near the end, he's clearly had an adventure as crazy as Harry's but he dies before he can explain what happened to him.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/MiracleMile