Saturday, 26 June 2010

Panic in Year '88 - Miracle Mile

One of the great secret gems of 80's Cinema, Miracle Mile (1988) begins with a fascinating premise - Harry a young jazz musician, (played by ER's Anthony Edwards) late for a midnight date answers a ringing pay-phone. Its a wrong number, but the stressed caller declares that a catastrophic nuclear missile strike on the US is imminent. Faced with the news that warheads are about to rain down on Los Angeles, Harry along with his date, Julie (Mare Winningham) attempt to make their way to a rendezvous point where a helicopter is waiting to take them away from the city and annihilation...

The enigmatically titled Miracle Mile (actually named after a district of LA) remains one of the best and most intelligent treatments on nuclear attack. The knockabout romantic comedy of the opening act fades to a very dark, absorbing thriller, that thankfully sees its way to its conclusion without blowing it. Its fast, beautifully paced and directed (by Steve De Jarnatt who has worked almost exclusively in TV), and impressively mounted - the eerie, depopulated streets of a sleeping city, give way to apocalyptic traffic jams and random violence as the film progresses. Well cast too, Edwards is especially good as the nerdish, boyish Harry, unwittingly thrust into the hero role, and there's good stuff from Mare Winningham, Mykelti Williamson (Heat and Ali) and Denise Crosby (of Star Trek, The Next Generation fame).

MGM's R1 DVD of Miracle Mile is typical of their treatment of marginal catalogue titles, its extras-free, but sports a very good clean transfer, sharp, colorful and with smooth blacks (most of the film takes place at night). Inexplicably, MGM have issued a fullframe transfer of the film, rather than presenting it in its original 1:85, but its a minor compromise and compositions are not affected. Audio is fine, and the excellent, urgent soundtrack by Tangerine Dream is well represented. Miracle Mile is deserving of the Criterion-treatment, however unlikely, so for now, the current DVD is highly recommended.

2 comments:

  1. I saw this one on cable when it was fairly new - say around 1990 or so - when the Wall was still up and such things seemed to carry more import. I enjoyed the movie too - and it is pretty unheralded. Good use of the spotlight on this one!

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  2. Yeah, I liked this film a lot, it seemed to get the measure of the material just right - it's grim, but watchable - I dunno if you ever seen or heard of a 1984 BBC film Threads, but its treatment of nuclear war and its aftermath on a family living in a Northern England city is one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen and and one I must admit I won't return to - so in this case Miracle Mile is my go-to-guy for nuclear holocaust drama...

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