“I really hope we get out of this alive.”
Steve Jarnatt’s post-apocaltic thriller Miracle Mile seems all the more relevant concerning the growing threat of nuclear weapons and the advent of global terrorism that has been and still remains at the forefront of social and political crisis. From 9/11 to the the war in Afghanistan, Korea and its harboring of nuclear weapons to the religious wars in the middle-east, many parts of the world are in a state of chaos and rampant violence. Not to digress into the complex and polemical issues of global politics since this film is not particular interested in them but if these conflicts continue to rise, the threat of a possible nuclear holocaust seems all the more likely.
Despite its glaring flaws and incongruities, Miracle Mile is far more effective as a taut, entertaining thriller rather than a profoundly engaging narrative with underlying social and political commentary. Unlucky in love, Harry Washello (Anothony Edwards from E.R. fame) is a nerdy museum curator who believes he has found the the girl of the dreams in Julie, a waitress at a coffee shop. A possible relationship starts to bloom between them but unfortunately for him, any romantic developments are cut short due to strange circumstances. He has a date with her after her night-shift finishes but because of a bizarre power-outage at his hotel, he sleeps in and shows up three hours late. Discouraged, he attempts to reach her by phone to apologize but has no such luck. Suddenly, the phone booth rings and he reluctantly answers it but is immediately startled by a frantic male voice on the other end who is tells him that a nuclear attack is imminent to strike California in 70 minutes. At first he finds the entire situation incredulous but is unable to shake the feeling that perhaps it is not a prank call when he hears gun shots through the phone and then the line goes dead. From this point on, a sense of slight disbelief is required on the part of the viewer as Harry becomes thoroughly convinced of a possible nuclear strike. His paranoia is then transferred to the patrons of the coffee shop and they begin to panic. A chain-reaction of fear soon develops and eventually becomes widespread panic as the film progresses. Harry must now race against the clock to find Julie and escape L.A. before it is turned into a nuclear wasteland. Uncompromising in its depiction of human anarchy on the brink of destruction, the film’s portrayal of human malevolence in the sake of self-preservation is terrifying. It is difficult to ignore Jarnatt’s blatant cynicism towards humanity.
There is somewhat of an inherent 80’s feel to the film in terms of the clothing, hairdos and the heavily-synthesized soundtrack by “Tangerine Dream” but these aspects are not a hindrance. Even with a moderate budget, Jarnatt manages to evoke an unrelenting tension and dreaded paranoia that gradually increases as the story frantically reaches its shocking conclusion. Expecting an engrossing story with in-depth characters and strong social commentary will only lead to disappointment. Miracle Mile does not attempt to be more than a highly entertaining thriller and is admirable in representing the growing fear of human extinction caused by nuclear war.