Everybody love whales, right? Indeed they’re so adored that the original name of this film was Everybody Loves Whales, before being changed to the more generic and slightly meaningless Big Miracle. Indeed it’s a change that seems indicative of the slightly ballsed-up marketing this movie’s had, as it deserved to get a big audience and is just the sort of film many families will love. Instead of selling it properly though, it was merely slipped out and made just $20 million at the US box office. Hopefully it’ll find a bit more of an audience on DVD.
John Krasinski plays Adam Carlson, a news reporter for a small TV station who’s been sent to Barrow, Alaska to talk about what it’s like to live in the Arctic circle, in one of the most northerly towns in the world. Just as he’s about to leave, he happens upon three Gray Whales trapped in a small breathing hole in the ice. It’s too far for them to swim to the open ocean without drowning and their outlook seems bleak.
His report is picked up by the national US news and soon the story has become an international cause celebre. Adam’s ex, Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), begins to take saving the whales very personally, while the media pours into the town, keen to report on every deal of the fight to keep the animals alive. Soon an unexpected coalition begins to emerge, including the Inuit who normally hunt whales (and think the outsiders are crazy for wanting to save these three), an oil tycoon (Ted Danson) who thinks this could be good PR, Greenpeace, the National Guard and even the White House. However there’s still a big problem, a pressure barrier of ice stand between the whales and the Ocean and it’ll need some major power to break through it. The Russians may be the only ones who can help, but this is 1988 and the Cold War is still raging.
Big Miracle is one of those movies that sets out to gladden your heart and does so with aplomb. It’s a film about the power of co-operation and shows that sometimes people can put aside their differences to come together for a good cause. It’s nice that it doesn’t completely gloss over some of the complexities of the tale, realising that everyone involved may have their own agenda, but just because someone wants to spin something a particular way and use it to promote their own ideas, doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be useful or that they’re being secretly completely evil. It may not explore these ideas fully, but it does a lot better than the black and white world we’re normally presented with in this kind of film.
Mainly though it’s about trying to save some whales and the power these animals have to pull people together in extraordinary ways. Based on a true story (and with footage over the credits to show that many of the more extraordinary aspects of the tale are 100% factual), it shows that things were going viral long before social media, and that when something sparks people’s imagination it can bring out a shared humanity we often forget about. Some will undoubtedly find the film cheesy or sentimental, but while it has its manipulative moments, underneath that is a basic sweetness and truth that ensures it works. You’d have to have a hard heart not to be hoping the whales escape by the end.
The Blu-ray includes a couple of featurettes, but sadly the DVD is feature-free. Luckily though the film is great. If you have an animal loving kid (who won’t get distraught at the idea of whales in peril), or you just like films that make you feel warm and give you hope that humankind is basically good, Big Miracle is definitely worth watching.
Overall Verdict: An extraordinary true story that’ll leave you feeling warm, not just because it’s about whales, but because it shows the extraordinary things people can do by working together.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac