New To Blu: Miracle Mile

Now for a break from our typical fare for a review of Miracle Mile, finally new to blu this week.

"Hi Grandma. Is that you?
I'm sorry I quit ER."
What would you do if you found out you had little over an hour left to live?  Should you disregard the prospect of thermonuclear annihilation from a random caller as cockamamie or accept it as a tangible threat? 

Among the last films released by Hemdale Entertainment (best known for The Terminator), Miracle Mile is an uncompromising thriller that seems less interested in the outcome than how people in general would respond to such a warning.  Bold and epic in scale, Miracle Mile was originally written for Warner Brothers and for a short time was going to be Twilight Zone: The Movie before Steven Spielberg came aboard and the project was revised into four separate segments with the Miracle Mile idea scrapped.  Deemed far too bleak with an unusual mixture of romance and nuclear war, Miracle Mile remained unmade and after shopping the project around for the next decade, De Jarnatt ultimately wound up financing the project himself for a meager $3.7 million with Hemdale.  The resulting picture was a commercial failure but fared well with the critics and has since gained a cult following. 

click to buy
In the pantheon of genre thrillers dealing with our fear of thermonuclear annihilation, Miracle Mile is one of the most underrated and rarely seen of the bunch.  The performances across the board are strong including newcomer (at the time) Mykelti Williamson and fans of both Robocop and The Terminator will delight in cameo appearances by Earl Boen and Robert DoQui.  Despite the film’s low budget and at times shoestring visual effects sequences, few films imbue a dark sense of foreboding doom quite like this one.  Probably the most effective facet of the film is the electronic score by Tangerine Dream, easily my favorite work of theirs to date.  Pulse pounding, downbeat and nerve wracking, the music brews a dark cloud which perfectly informs the mood of the picture.  If you thought their score for Kathryn Bigelow’s apocalyptic vampire thriller Near Dark evoked an overwhelming sense of hopeless dread, Miracle Mile does it with a vengeance.  Much like John Carpenter’s score for Halloween, it’s a soundtrack that stays with the listener well after the picture has since ended. 

My first experience with Miracle Mile came in the form of Walter Chaw’s book for Film Freak Central, functioning as both a personal memoir and a shot by shot analysis of the film.  Previously only available on a bare bones DVD with non-anamorphic video and scratchy audio, Miracle Mile now comes to blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber in a lavish remaster full of retrospective interviews, never before seen deleted scenes including an alternate ending.  The crème-de-la-crème of the disc, however, is the exclusive audio commentary with director Steve De Jarnatt and Walter Chaw.  Chaw’s knowledge and respect for the medium is unprecedented and he asks Jarnatt all the right questions, making this a most enjoyable listen.  There’s also a commentary with the film’s cinematographer Theo Van De Sande (best known for Blade and Wayne’s World) and how the film’s visual style worked to inform the film’s bleak tonality. 

"Dang. White folks throwing away
perfectly fine cars."
On the one hand, Miracle Mile as it stands was realized with half the budget it needed and the film’s scale is hindered somewhat by the lack of a major studio’s support.  On the other hand, Miracle Mile is a triumph of independent filmmaking as the budgetary limitations also meant De Jarnatt could proceed with his nightmarish vision without any outside interference and the heavy punch of his original screenplay comes through unexpurgated in the finished product.  It’s a film that will defy your expectations of genre, narrative and character with many surprises and a genuine sense of doom missing from other apocalyptic thrillers.  While it may not have had success upon its initial run, it’s obvious from the special edition blu-ray Miracle Mile has stood the test of time and will remain a searing cult classic about man’s fear of the atom bomb for years to come.

-Andrew Kotwicki