In October 1988, in the small town of Barrow, Alaska, there was an eager young reporter named Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) who wanted more than anything to move up to a bigger city and a bigger network. He got his chance when he was out on the frozen tundra and he saw a whale spout, miles inland from the ocean. When he went to go investigate, he discovered a family of three grey whales trapped in the pack ice with only a very small hole in which they could come up and breathe.
Carlson’s local news report went viral and gained the attention of his ex-girlfriend Rachel (Drew Barrymore), a Greenpeace activist, along with the entire nation, including big-oil executive J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson), who needs some positive PR for his Alaskan oil drilling company, an Alaskan National Guard colonel Scott Boyer (Dermot Mulroney) and even a staffer for the Ronald Reagan administration.
As the story grew, many saw this as an opportunity to capitalize on the situation. J.W. McGraw sees it as a way to gain some favor from the environmentalists who protest his drilling in the arctic, and the president and his staff see it as a way to gain favor from the American people. But nobody could have imagined the attention and sympathy the world would feel towards the plight of these three majestic creatures on the brink of drowning if they couldn’t find their way to open waters before the ice completely froze over.
As the new story grows, reporters from all over begin to descend on this small town, including budding journalist Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell) — a minor crush of Adam Carlson — who wants to use this story to further her career as well. When colder weather hits and the water begins to freeze even faster, the local Alaskan natives consider harvesting the whales before they die and using the meat to feed their families as they have done for centuries. This causes a outcry from Rachel and Greenpeace, who don’t see it as a way of life, but as plain cold-blooded murder. As the two cultures clash, one thing is certain — the family of whales nicknamed Fred, Wilma and Bam Bam have little time left for action to take place before they perish.
Directed by Ken Kwapis (“He’s Just Not That Into You”) and based on the book “Freeing the Whales” by author Tom Rose, “Big Miracle” covers Operation Breakthrough, an international effort to free whales trapped by ice near Point Barrow, Alaska. I am too young to remember this event, but the film fills in all of the gaps if you didn’t know the story and even features a lot of real footage shot there in Alaska, which is seamlessly integrated with the movie.
Like most animal-in-peril movies you have to be taken with these underwater giants immediately to really care about the serious peril they are in and with beautiful shots above water and below, you see the spirit of the whales, their personalities and you are immediately on their side.
The casting in the film works well and John Krasinski is balanced well by Drew Barrymore. Both are slightly odd, but Barrymore is a perfect fit for the animal rights activist because she has a very “hippy-ish” vibe normally. Even though the characters are no longer a couple, you see the jealousy and rivalry when Kristen Bell enters the picture. Ted Danson really sells the power of the oil tycoon and I really enjoyed Kathy Baker in her small role as the wife who tricks him into thinking it was his idea to help with the rescue effort.
There is a large focus on the native people as the conflicting force of the outside world threatens to destroy the way they live and survive, but there are two natives they focus on, an old fashioned chieftain (John Pingayak) and his grandson (Ahmaogak Sweeney), who is less interested in the antiquated ways of his people and more on leaving Alaska and joining the modern world. You see the influences that television and music have on the young boy and how much fear the natives have of the outside world influencing and affecting the way they survive. “Big Miracle” also stars Vinessa Shaw, Stephen Root, Rob Riggle, Tim Blake Nelson, Mark Ivanir and Andrew Daly.
“Big Miracle” is an endearing film that goes for the heart of its viewers and inspires hope in seeing the majesty of the family of grey whales. In overcoming nature and many obstacles you see a global rescue effort that destroys boundaries, political affiliations, religious views and even territorial barriers as the entire world puts aside their differences to form a global task force determined to help out in what seemed an impassable destination. Truly a movie for the entire family, “Big Miracle” is a charming film that aims to bring an audience together in peace and hope.
Rated PG for mild language, “Big Miracle” in in theaters now.
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