Big Miracle is based on true events that happened in 1988 in Barrow, Alaska, one of the coldest places in the United States. Three gray whales were trapped under the ice, and unable to migrate south to warmer water because there was a barrier of ice blocking their way. The whales also needed to breathe, and to even swim to the ice barrier would have been five miles, which was unfeasible. At first, the president and the governor of Alaska wouldn’t help the whales, but with the persistence of the newspeople portrayed in this film, who soon turned the small local story into a national one, the government and the National Guard were persuaded to help the whales.
Adam Carlson (John Krasinski, TV’s The Office) is a small-fry newsman in Barrow, Alaska, where he reports on such exciting stories as the food quality at the town’s only Mexican restaurant. He follows the national news, though, and admires a pretty L.A. newswoman named Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell, Burlesque). When Nathan (newcomer Ahmaogak Sweeney) asks Adam to film a story on him and his cousin performing “awesome” snowmobile tricks, Adam stumbles upon something bigger: three gray whales, trapped under the ice. He films a story about it which is aired on the local Alaskan network, and later picked up by the national networks, inspiring people to want to help the whales. Adam’s ex-girlfriend Rachel (Drew Barrymore, Going the Distance), a Greenpeace activist, rushes to Alaska to help as well, and Adam finally gets to meet Jill Jerard when she is sent to Alaska to cover what one of the senior newsmen calls “a cat stuck in a tree”-type story. With the help of the local Inuit people and the Barrow residents, they must free the whales before the whales die from not being able to breathe.
Parts and lines throughout the film were a bit cliché, but overall this is an interesting movie. The whales, though they look extremely real, were animatronic; there’s a beautifully shot scene where Barrymore’s character dives into the water, wearing a wetsuit and oxygen tank, in order to check out the situation, and I never would have guessed that the whales weren’t real. The situation apparently fascinated the nation in October 1988 when it was taking place, and people all over the U.S. wanted to do what they could to help the whales. The U.S. ended up working with the Soviet Union in order to try to free them as well, and the two nations weren’t “great friends” then either.
Yes, see this film. Big Miracle is a very family-friendly movie, but what I liked most about it was that it was based on a real story. Clips from the 1988 broadcasts are interspersed with those from Krasinski and Bell’s characters; near the end of the movie we even see the two merged together, with real clips featuring Larry King and even Sarah Palin, who was a sportscaster in Alaska at the time of the whale crisis. Stay during the credits, too, to see pictures of the real-life people who the actors played. The supporting cast is great as well, with Ted Danson (TV’s CSI) as an oil-drilling baron who decides to help so that he can get some good P.R., and Stephen Root (J. Edgar) is the Alaskan governor who originally doesn’t care about the whales. Barrymore’s character, although based on Cindy Lowry, a real Greenpeace activist, is definitely the clichéd “hippie tree-hugger,” but she does deliver a good performance here, and Krasinski’s character is very likeable as well.
Big Miracle is in theaters today, February 3rd, and is rated PG with a runtime of 107 minutes.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5