Every time I see a movie trailer that involves any type of mammal, I automatically assume the ending will leave me spiraling downward into depression. I think anyone who has seen “Marley & Me” or “Bambi” would have to agree.
Since my experience with heartbreaking animal movies has left me scarred for life, I was hesitant to check out a new film, which stars three California gray whales. “Big Miracle” is a romantic drama that is based on the book “Freeing the Whales” by Tom Rose. The book tells the true story of Operation Breakthrough, a campaign to free three whales that had become trapped underneath pack ice in Point Barrow, Alaska.
Directed by Ken Kwapis, “Big Miracle” also stars John Krasinski as Adam Carlson, a local news reporter trying to make it big, and Drew Barrymore plays Rachel Kramer, an Alaskan Greenpeace activist as well as Adam’s ex-girlfriend. Released by Universal Pictures Feb. 3, other notable stars in the film include Kristen Bell, Ted Danson and Stephen Root.
“Big Miracle” starts out by focusing on Adam’s quest to find an interesting story in quiet Point Barrow. While filming footage out on the pack ice, Adam sees water spraying from the ice into the air. As he gets closer, he realizes that three gray whales are trapped underneath the ice, struggling to breathe.
After Adam’s segment about the whales battling for survival airs locally, NBC picks up the story because “[Tom] Brokaw’s a sucker for whale stories.” As you can expect, the usually peaceful city of Point Barrow explodes with reporters and media alike.
Once Rachel hears word of the distressed whales, she doesn’t hesitate to approach Alaskan Gov. Haskell, played by Stephen Root, to ask for assistance from the National Guard. At first the governor denies Rachel, but she cleverly uses the media to get her way. Gov. Haskell wasn’t the only person Rachel needed on her side. The Greenpeace activist also needed the support of oil tycoon Liam Peterson, played by Danson, for permission to use his icebreaker barge in order to crush the ice and get the whales to freedom.
Peterson donates the usage of his icebreaker barge to the rescue efforts for the sole fact of good public relations. With all of the equipment and people in order, the National Guard is sent on a mission to pull the barge to the site where the whales are trapped. Because it will take a few days for the barge to arrive, the local Point Barrow residents keep an eye on the whales, affectionately named Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm, while they wait to be rescued.
The unsung heroes in this film are the members of the Inupiat tribe, who inhabit Point Barrow. Having been residents of Point Barrow for many years, they are accustomed to the freezing temperatures. These people are the ones who are out on the ice using chainsaws to continuously cut through the ice in order to keep the whales alive.
There are many tense moments, especially when the temperatures drop so low that a man’s eyelid freezes shut, but throughout it all, Rachel is the one who is always offering hope. “There’s always something you can do,” Rachel tells Adam during one tense moment when he was ready to give up on the rescue mission.
At a little over two hours, “Big Miracle” is a heartwarming film that has its bittersweet moments. Perfect for all ages, the film shows that big miracles can occur and people from all walks of life can come together for a common cause. This film is full of hope, and I promise you will feel good when you leave the theater.
Along with its uplifting theme and beautiful scenes involving the whales, “Big Miracle” has a special cameo from the one and only Sarah Palin back in her days as a local news anchor. If that’s not a reason to go see this film, I don’t know what is.