Miracle Mile, 1988.
Directed by Steve De Jarnatt.
Starring Anthony Edwards, Mare Winningham, Denise Crosby, John Agar, Lou Hancock, Mykelti Williamson, and Kurt Fuller.
After answering a pay phone at four in the morning and hearing a message warning of all-out nuclear war, a young man must find his new love and try and survive the upcoming Armageddon.
Creating a rare form of genre shifting, high-concept fantasy, Miracle Mile is a memorable blend of anxiety dream, satirical humour and romantic adventure. First written in 1983, writer/director De Jarnatt bought back the rights to his compelling script and took on the project himself five years later. The decision proved to be a excellent one, and today the film stands up extremely well.
Harry (Anthony Edwards, ER, Top Gun) is a young visitor to LA who happens to meet the love of his life Julie (Mare Winningham, St Elmo’s Fire) at a local museum. After realising that it really is love at first sight, the two begin dating and all looks right with the world. One night after falling asleep before an arranged date, there is a power cut at Harry’s hotel that disables his alarm clock. Waking up late for the date, he wanders over to Julie’s place and randomly answers a ringing pay-phone outside a diner. The garbled call warns of an impending nuclear strike in just over an hour. Just as Harry begins to realise the seriousness of the situation, the caller is shot dead while on the line. Harry then stumbles into the diner and tries to convince the patrons of just what is about to go happen.
From then on the story takes place in real time, bringing out the ticking clock and early morning LA weirdness in full. Edwards is a great lead in this, the slightly nerdy hero of a tale that starts off as a breezy John Hughes-ish romantic comedy and transforms into nightmarish social allegory and political thriller. It is unusual to confidently shift tack as well as this, and Miracle Mile can be compared to other 1980’s gems such as Repo Man and Something Wild for its ability to move direction away from the kind of movie you think you’re watching into something completely different.
Writer director De Jarnatt created a truly original story, mixing a wealth of wild ideas with a constant real-time action plot. The capture of surreal panic is impressively done, and much of this is down to the skillful direction of exhilarating set-pieces. The two leads produce moving performances, holding your attention right up to the end. There’s even a stirring synth score by Tangerine Dream – seriously, this film gets so many things right… Overlooked and almost forgotten for years, this is a brilliant slice of off-kilter movie making that fully deserves its reevaluation as a stand-out oddball thriller.
New video interview with writer/director Steve De Jarnatt
Audio commentary by Steve De Jarnatt
Audio commentary by Steve De Jarnatt, cinematographer Theo van de Sande and production designer Chris Horner
Julie & Harry, an interview with actors Mare Winningham and Anthony Edwards
Supporting cast and crew reunion featurette
The Music of Tangerine Dream, an interview with co-composer Paul Haslinger
Deleted scenes and outtakes
Rubiaux Rising, a short story read by Steve De Jarnatt
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.