- Written and Directed by Steve De Jarnatt
- September 11, 1988 (Toronto Festival of Festivals) / May 19, 1989 (United States)
After missing a date with a woman and taking a chance phone call, a young man learns that in 70 minutes nuclear war will come to the world.
Miracle Mile is a film that should not work as a romantic story but does. Despite the backdrop of nuclear war, this is a sweet love story. That is what propels it. The actual events of Armageddon take up little of the film with most of the story being about establishing the relationship between our two central characters.
The film stars Anthony Edwards as Harry Washello, a musician, and Mare Winningham as Julie Peters, a waitress at a local diner. When Harry oversleeps and misses a date with his love a series of events unfolds and he learns that nuclear war has begun and it becomes a race against time to find Julie and get her to safety.
I found Anthony Edwards a little stiff as Harry. He was much more natural in Top Gun as Goose and just about everything else he did after this, but he came off as all still here. He went for too much of an “Awe, geez” vibe and it hindered him. He was not terrible but not as good as he could have been.
Mare Winningham is a fantastic actress. Here she is just so natural and charming as Julie. Julie is sweet and charming but plays weirdly hard to get with Harry. She obviously cares for Harry and before the story kicks in to gear they have been on a few dates, but he does not know exactly where she lives nor does he have her phone number. I have no idea why and that is never really explained.
Despite that oddness the romance between the two is quite effective and you believe that Harry really is desperate to save Julie after learning the horrible truth. Things start simple enough and just build and build and build. It all starts with a phone ringing in a phonebooth and goes from there.
I do not know about you but when such things were common, I would most likely have answered a call to a phonebooth. Curiosity on my part but here Harry thought it was Julie somehow calling him back. It turns out to be a wrong number from a missile silo in North Dakota who is trying to reach his estranged father to apologize for something in the past before the missiles hit. Harry is able to confirm that this was all genuine with the help of a diner patron. (It is a little more than that but I need to keep this entry a reasonable length.)
Miracle Mile has quite a few faces you might recognize. I was a bit surprised at the individuals I could pick out. John Agar, most notably of Fort Apache and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, is Julie’s grandfather Ivan. Mykelti Williamson before he gained notice in Forest Gump, is electronics thief Wilson. Denise Crosby of TNG fame shows up as Landa who is the main person to confirm the story. Robert DoQui who played Sgt. Reed in RoboCop is Fred the Cook. Earl Boen who was in the first three Terminator films is Drunk Man in Diner. And how can I leave out Jenette Goldstein as Beverly Hills Chick #1. She was in T2 as well as Aliens and she looks completely different in both. Kurt Fuller who shows up as Gerstead may not be a household name, but he has done a great deal. Guaranteed you recognize the face if not the name. Brian Thompson who shows up as a helicopter pilot is in a similar boat. For example he was one of the punks that the Terminator first encounters in the original Terminator. That is just one among many.
This was a love story that could only be made in the 80s. It is a strangely sweet apocalyptic romance. A great many people were afraid of nuclear war occurring during the 80s and this fear seeped into all aspects of popular culture. This was an outgrowth of that fear but tinged with the hope that two people that should be together could find each other no matter what.
I do not think it is too hard to imagine that what occurs in the finale would happen in real life. I am talking about the complete breakdown of society when doom is fast approaching. When I first saw this I did not think like that. I thought it was a little over the top. I believed there would be chaos but I did not think people would be as terrible as they are shown to be here. Maybe I got more cynical but I hold to the opposite now.
This film was selected in 1983 as one of the great unmade screenplays and it is just a great film. It has a good story and despite the shortcomings of Anthony Edwards the performances are quite enjoyable. Even Kurt Fuller’s character at the end who has given up completely and just gone for broke hedonism was great. The reactions of the characters to the terrible news is believable.
Normally I am not okay with films ending downbeat. Too often it feels forced. Like the writer or the director wanted to askew convention for no good reason, but it does not feel like that here. It is just a natural outgrowth of the story. You do want everybody to live but given the scenario that is a longshot proposition and that it does not happen is not so bothersome.
Miracle Mile is a great unique romantic film. It is filled with emotion and tension and fear but most of all it is a great love story about to souls perfect for each other set against a coming nuclear war. This is definitely a watch it!