What do you do when you're given the deadline for the end of the world? Steve De Jarnatt's insidiously clever and utterly gripping nuclear thriller begins as a romantic lark--amiable swing trombonist Anthony Edwards meets girl of his dreams Mare Winningham--and turns into a nightmarish vision of society out of control. It all turns on the chance pick-up of a ringing pay phone at 4 a.m. and a panicked voice breathlessly warning Edwards that World War III has been launched. Genuine wake-up call or elaborate prank? De Jarnatt plays his hand close to the chest, which only increases the unnerving tension as word spreads like a contagion. Future E.R.
star Edwards is perfectly cast as the everyman driven to reckless desperation and director De Jarnatt creates wonders on a small budget. His vision of L.A.'s Miracle Mile gripped in the blind panic of a careening traffic jam is both believable and chilling. --Sean Axmaker