Four years after the BBC informed us about sitting under tables and your leg falling off in Threads, over in America nuclear Armageddon was the basis for romantic comedy. Steve de Jarnatt wrote Miracle Mile on leaving the American Film Institute and in 1983 American Film magazine named it one of Hollywood’s ten best unproduced screenplays – but it would be another five years before de Jarnatt finally filmed it, a flop financially but one with a cult reputation.
It’s very entertaining, if oddly judged. Not strictly comedy, nor as intelligent as it needs to be, Miracle Mile hints at farce before settling on a relatively straightforward plummet into oblivion.
Starting with Anthony Edwards’ Harry Washello finally finding the girl of his dreams, across the first few minutes we’re treated to the circumstances preceding his first date with Julie (Mare Winningham, whose haircut is the most frightening thing in the movie). When their evening is interrupted by Julie’s shift at a coffee shop and Harry misses their later rendezvous after a power cut, a 4am wrong number informs him there’s only seventy minutes before atomic bombs fall on L.A.
It’s fortunate, then, that Denise Crosby’s businesswoman Wanda happens to be partaking of an early breakfast, confirming to everyone’s satisfaction that doomsday is indeed imminent. Thus begins Harry’s search for Julie – not that difficult, as it happens – and a race against time to flee the city before a waking world discovers the truth and starts clogging the roads.
Obviously, things don’t go to plan, and we follow Harry through a succession of mini-adventures with characters like Mykelti Williamson’s low-rent fence and Brian Thompson’s ex-pilot, with his 4am keep-fit regime and a haircut nearly as startling as Winningham’s. And all the while the clock ticks down in real time, with the pressure building to the point at which L.A. bursts in a riot of looting and car-jacking.
Edwards doesn’t quite possess the gravitas necessary to authenticate the end of the world, but he holds Miracle Mile together amiably enough, such that we do actually care what happens; hints are also dropped throughout that this might be a major misunderstanding, the panic and unnecessary deaths traceable back to Harry misjudging a phone prank.
The soundtrack is as idiosyncratic as the rest of uber-1980s band Tangerine Dream’s other work, and the new transfer and special edition, filled with a plethora of worthwhile extras, make this a serious treat for those who’ve become fans of this peculiar adventure over the years. Who knows, with a certain someone’s finger on the nuclear trigger, Miracle Mile might even pick up a new audience now in 2017, desperately looking for clues as to how to survive a nuclear retaliation.
Special Features: trailer / commentaries / interviews / The Music of Tangerine Dream / alternate ending / storyboard comparison/ cast reunion
MIRACLE MILE (1988) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: STEVE DE JARNATT / SCREENPLAY: STEVE DE JARNATT / STARRING: ANTHONY EDWARDS, MARE WINNINGHAM / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW