A ringing phone must be answered. A conceit put forward most famously in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth but one that is as old as Alexander Graham Bell really. It is also at the heart of this eighties gem, Miracle Mile. Anthony Edwards stars as Harry, just a man living his life in L.A, falling in love with a girl named Julie and discovering the world is ending in seventy minutes. Yes, upon answering a ringing payphone Harry is informed by someone claiming to be a soldier that the clock has begun to tick and nuclear war will break out in seventy minutes.
If it wasn’t obvious already, this is the type of film that was only possible in the eighties. US/Russian tension was at an all time high, the world was sure that it would be the nukes that would end it all and the surreal was making a return. Directors like Cronenberg and Lynch were coming into their own and audiences were ready to take in something different. Unfortunately, Miracle Mile was maybe a little too different as it bombed on its original release. Maybe it was just a little too out there, but looking back on it now it serves as a brilliant window into the paranoia and fear that had engulfed the world at the time. Anyway, where were we. Harry has just met Julie and the two have rapidly fallen in love. A power failure sees Harry’s alarm clock pack in on him and he misses their next date. At the diner where Julie works he uses a payphone to call her and apologise, and then it rings. On the other end the voice of a young soldier who thinks he has called his father makes a frantic decleration that the world will fall to nuclear war in seventy minutes. Harry informs him of his wrong number and promises to let the soldier’s father know of the soldier’s remorse for a past incident between the two.
From there we simply just watch the whole situation play out. Starting with disbelief on everyone’s part and descending into chaos, Miracle Mile is probably more so about its concept rather than the performances or technical ability behind the scenes, but it looks great today as a wall to wall time code of the eighties style. The narrative speaks to a lot of topics however – starting with the disbelief of those who Harry informs and finally ending up in total anarchy. Things were tense back then, and here director Steve De Jarnett has some fun with a “what if?” scenario.
There were certainly better films made in the eighties, and maybe there were quirkier ones, but with regards what one encapsulates just how heightened and absurd the paranoia was at the time you need look no further than Miracle Mile. A massively downbeat ending doesn’t hurt either, something De Jarnett had to fight hard for seemingly. As off the cuff as it may seem to say, you’ll not regret giving this one your time, even if just out of pure curiosity.