Love story also a nuclear-war thriller By CANDICE RUSSELL Film Writer What if you were the unlucky recipient of the worst possible news the imminent end of the world as you know it? With an hour or so to try and save your skin before a nuclear attack, what would you do? Miracle Mile is a tightly wound, pre-apocalyptic thriller that answers those questions and more for a young man named Harry Wa-shello. This gut-wrenching race against time takes a novel approach to the doomsday genre of films, represented most recently by the preachy and obstinately grim The Day After. Thank goodness, Miracle Mile has no patience for windy philosophizing. Key to the way the movie works is the affection it develops for Harry, an eccentric trombonist. He likes hanging out at Los Angeles' natural history museum, where he meets a soul mate, Julie, and falls in love. But their sweet romance doesn't stand a chance of developing. A carelessly tossed cigarette leads to a broken post-midnight date. Then Harry receives a frantic phone call meant for someone else. The male caller is in a North Dakota missile silo, and he is panicked about the 50 minutes until the United States launches World War III. Dazed and wanting to disbelieve, Harry staggers into the coffee shop where Julie's shift ended hours before and spreads the news. This scene is particularly well-done, in part because the film doesn't prepare you for the brutal shift in tone and purpose. The un-- reality of the 1950s-style coffee "shop, its strange assortment of pre-dawn characters, and the magnitude of what's about to happen to them create a highly charged drama of personalities. Not every diner believes Harry's horror story. The ones who do, including a female stockbroker with the right connections, make plans for escape to a peaceful valley in Antarctica. Most of the movie is spent on the process of trying tmn'T "it ittmmm Tfm. .,4kmiJkm tiAlliit The blossoming romance of Julie (Mare Winningham) and Harry (Anthony Edwards) is doomed m Miracle Mile. MOVIE REVIEW irit Miracle Mite A young man alerts fellow citizens to an imminent nuclear attack. With Anthony Edwards, Mare Winningham, Mykel T. Williamson. Directed and written by Steve De Jarnatt. CO Violence, coarse language, obscenity, brief nudity, adult theme. Poor Fair Good Excellent to get away and the obstacles that forbid it. Miracle Mile wisely doesn't lose sight of its central love story. Writer-director Steve De Jarnatt even mirrors it in the reunion of a long-estranged elderly couple. But as frenzy replaces quietude, the filmmaker has ample occasion to comment on the thin veneer of civilization that separates men from raving beasts. Always, as Harry races to find Julie, then to get to a helicopter and possible safety, there is the possibility of hope. The tantalizing belief that all will be well is a powerful motivator. Other people know better, however, and resort to barbarism in the streets a sickening sight. Anthony Edwards is excellent as the mild-mannered Harry, transformed by circumstance. With her cropped hair, the girlishly winsome Mare Winningham as Julie is a perfect foil. Filmmaker De Jarnatt can be forgiven prolonging the story's agony because the material is gripping. Miracle Mile is a craftily made movie that gets better as it goes. There's plenty to think about after you leave the theater, too.