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Cult Movie: Miracle Mile

Anthony Edwards faces imminent nuclear obliteration in Miracle Mile
Ralph McLean

Miracle Mile

FILMS about imminent nuclear apocalypse were everywhere in the 1980s.

With the world's superpowers bickering endlessly, spouting right wing rhetoric like a Brexiteer on a bender and getting lairy as their itchy fingers hovered ominously around those big red buttons, the stories practically wrote themselves.

That mankind would ultimately obliterate itself in a puff of nuclear nastiness seemed sadly inevitable, really. Film-makers were merely reflecting the public mood and what a miserable, deeply pessimistic and glumly oppressive mood it was.

Odd how those feelings seem just as relevant today, isn't it?

One of the best, if least appreciated, cinematic tales of oncoming nuclear obliteration in the cold war era came courtesy of director Steve De Jarnatt in 1988.

Miracle Mile failed to score big at the box office on its original release but today, freshly reissued on Blu-ray by Arrow, it should find an enthusiastic audience in cult circles at least.

Anthony Edwards is Harry, an easy going jazz musician who takes a trip to LA and falls into a deep relationship with a coffee shop waitress called Julie (Mare Winningham).

One night, before he is due to meet the new love of his life, Harry falls asleep in his hotel room and wakes late when his alarm clock fails to go off due a power cut.

Wandering over towards Julie's place he makes the fatal mistake of answering a ringing pay phone outside a diner. The caller tries to warn the dumbstruck Harry about a forthcoming nuclear strike which is due in the next hour.

Before there is any time to make sense of this traumatic news the caller is shot dead and Harry is then left to stagger around the city in shock trying to warn everyone he meets that the end is indeed nigh.

A neat mix of John Hughes style satire, full blown pessimistic sci-fi and straight ahead adult drama, Miracle Mile is a beautifully made little study of the paranoia that reigned in Reagan's America.

From the moment Harry is told the awful news that nuclear oblivion is on the way, the film plays out in real time, which adds to the rising tension and full-on dream-like weirdness of it all.

Both lead performances are solid and the supporting cast provide strong and believable figures who all react differently to the possibility that everything is about to actually go up in one almighty mushroom cloud.

There's a memorable synth score by Tangerine Dream and a whole bulging bag of extras from audio commentaries and interviews with De Jarnatt, cinematographer Theo van de Sande and production designer Chris Horner to music features and deleted scenes, all further enhancing this impressive package from the always reliable Arrow team.

The core of the film lies in the excellent script that the director himself penned in 1983. Cold, harsh and bleakly funny, it nailed the idea of nuclear devastation effortlessly but kicked around Hollywood for years until De Jarnatt himself re-bought it in '88.

This being the 1980s, the finished film doesn't shy away from the horrible reality that's being suggested here either and the ending, without providing any spoilers, is as genuinely bleak as movie making can get.

Forgotten and unloved for decades Miracle Mile is crying out for reappraisal.

Trust me, the end of the world never looked so good.

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