What’s a Blog-a-thon? This blog-a-thon is a challenge, its participants have chose films the other has not seen to watch and review.
September Blog-a-thon criteria: Hidden 80’s Gems
Why A.J. Chose This Film For Marcey: “The Cold War hammered paranoia into everyone’s minds to some degree, arguably no more forcefully than in the 1980s. Folks lived in fear of not just the Russkies attacking but of an atomic-aided apocalypse period. “Miracle Mile” plays off of this dread to incredible effect, a film that realizes how much more suspense there is to be gleaned from a story where you’re not even sure there *is* a danger than one where peril is around every corner. It’s a fantastic thriller that never got its due, and despite its more dated elements, it’s well worth a watch over twenty years down the road.”
Marcey’s Review: Miracle Mile is a product of the Cold War era, and the paranoia it pounded into people. The film has a simple premise, with a young man answering the phone at a phone booth in the early hours of the morning, and hearing a warning about missiles hitting the city in around an hour’s time. But is this a legitimate warning, did he misunderstand something or a horrible prank? These are the questions we ponder throughout the entire film (and yes it does get answered), and much like the characters in the film we are left with our own paranoia about the situation. What is one to do with this warning?
This film does have a very ‘Twilight Zone’ feel to it, and it was in consideration for The Twilight Zone film at one point. This story would have been right at home in the 60’s, and I could definitely see it being pulled off back then. It does however also fit the 80’s, and the film itself is very defining of that era. Miracle Mile feels like a bad dream, the ones you have where no one listens to you and when they finally believe you, it’s too late. This is very true of our main character Harry Washello (Anthony Edwards), as he goes back into the diner of where he came and everyone thinks he has gone mad or is completely drunk. It is fortunate that ‘the woman with the phone’ Landa (Denise Crosby) believes him because of something he repeats to her that he heard on the call. A plan is quickly devised for them to leave, but Harry cannot face this without his new love Julie (Mare Winningham). It is here the film changes, and it focuses as it does at the start on this romance, yet it also keeps that element of impending doom.
I think the romance element can go either way for audiences, while I thought it was fine and a good catalyst for extending this story, which could have been told in 45 minutes. There is something that is poetic, seeing these two young people holding on to each other, as the city gets crazier and crazier and time is running short on when the attack is meant to happen. It is all a slow build film, but when the third act starts, it gets crazier. This does start off as quite a sweet film, one that could easily be a romantic comedy about two young people, but once we hit that diner, those bets are off. It is around 4am in the morning when Harry gets this call, the city is quiet and only a handful of people are around to hear about what is to come. But as time rolls on, this news spreads quickly and the city has become a mess of looting, instead of residents leaving the city. It is madness, and it reflects the madness and the insanity that Harry is going through. All he wants is his love, and then to escape with her but things keep pulling him back.
The performance side of things is a mixed bag; at the start of the film things are light and almost a little cheesy. When we get to the diner, the characters there are a bit over the top and just very strange. The performers there seem confused with what they are meant to be doing, and only Anthony Edwards and Denise Crosby seem aware of what they are doing. Edwards improves as the film progresses, he was a little laughable in his delivery at the diner. I can’t quiet put my finger on what it was, I think he was perhaps unsure of himself and it just comes off as unintentionally funny. At the same time he knew what he was doing, how his character needed to act, it is just a very mixed scene in the film. After he leaves the diner and heads to find Julie, his acting really picks up and once reunited Edwards and Winningham really light the screen up. They worked well together, shared chemistry and he was at his strongest acting with her. Awful 80’s hairstyle aside, Winningham was great in this film, and she does give a strong performance. She hits all those right notes, and is especially fantastic towards the end.
On the other side of things, this is a really nicely shot film, with some truly memorable moments and scenes that will certainly stick with me. It also has some truly silly scenes, and the one with the police at the gas station contains an act of pure stupidity that caused me to do a literal face palm, not once but twice. It really does grab a hold of its viewers with that strange phone call, and it’s a really effective move. This does feel like a passion project for writer/director Steve De Jarnatt, and I did find out after the fact that it was. He pulled off a lot with a smaller budget, and it is certainly a very visual film. The pacing here can be fantastic at times, or just completely off and unsure of itself, at times it feels like it is taking too long to get somewhere and we are very much aware there is a clock ticking. It has its moments that don’t work, but when it does work, it really is fantastic. It is a really enjoyable film, and one that certainly feels relevant even today and holds up nicely 20+ years on.
As a closing note, I am glad A.J. gave me this title to watch for our Blog-A-Thon, it’s one of those genuine hidden gems. It feels like a crying shame that I had not even really heard of this until recently.
Head over to A.J’s website CINESLICE and read his Week 1 review of Just One Of The Guys