A young man meets and falls in love with a young woman at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. This area is known as Miracle Mile, and the whole movie takes place there. They make a date, which he misses, and while he is searching for her, he accidentally finds out that we (the United States) are about to start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He frantically searches for her so that they can escape Los Angeles. Written by
Mark Logan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Miracle Mile is one of my favourite films -I know it has its rough edges but I fell in love the first time I saw it at the University of Portsmouth film society ten years ago. I can't quite understand why though.
It belongs to the genre of suspense films called real-time thrillers -Hitchcock's Rope and Nick of Time are other examples. These are films which explore the very nature of film as a time-based medium. Usually the device is used in suspense movies, but has become popular recently in art house cinema like Timecode and Russian Ark.
The set-up is simple -after a day when he has fallen in love at first sight, Harry Washello randomly answers a ringing phone at a phone booth. The call is a wrong number from a soldier stationed at a nuclear silo. He is trying to warn his father that a nuclear strike has been launched and the US will be face a retaliatory attack in eighty minutes time. From then on, the action is played out in real time.
Unlike the aforementioned examples and the execrable 24, the real time actually works in Miracle Mile. If you sit through it with a stop watch, it only ever drifts out by a few seconds. The real time is essential to holding suspense and sympathy with the characters. Was the phone call for real? We don't know until an unforgettable moment, when the film becomes a race for survival.
There are some great, truly profound images -such as the dying Wilson scrambling up the down escalator with the body of his sister, or Harry and Julie lost in a department store surrounded by ticking clocks. This attention to detail and the bizarrely dark tone of the film elevate it to cult status. It has a soul and an individuality all of its own -can you imagine an episode of 24 ever being scored by Tangerine Dream?
This is a film about chance -the chance of Harry falling in love that day, the chance of him picking up the phone. The chance that effects us all and how we are at the mercy of it. But ultimately it is a very dark love story and perhaps that's why I like it so very much.
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