Big Miracle

5 5 1

Snow, Ice, Cold & Heartwarming

Reviewed by Rebecca Wilson
on Wed, Feb 08 2012

Here's an embarrassing confession: Despite its title and all my best intentions, I did not hate Big Miracle. You might not either.

See / Skip
See it if: 
You like a non-gaggy family film
Ah yes, pre-Internet nostalgia
Skip it if: 
The one-two punch of Krasinski-Barrymore mugging would make you stabby
90 minutes of cold and ice is depressing
All that for three whales? Really?

At one point in the movie, an oil company executive tells an eco warrior, "You’re not as easy to hate as I thought." Which is hilarious, because that's what I was thinking too -- about the entire movie.

It's ridiculous that in this day and age, when whales are at such extreme risk from manmade problems like hunting, global warming and pollution, we  should feel so moved by a scant three gray whales at risk because of entirely natural causes. And that we could root for enormous amounts of resources, human and financial, being expended to save them, when we can't get off our asses to make the kinds of good decisions that would save all of the whales. And get this: Gray whales aren't even endangered.

We are irrational idiots, my friends. That is the only explanation.

As preposterous as it is, even more so because it's true, Big Miracle is pretty good. And the kids! You can take them! And right-wingers! That fake "global warming" (the one that the scientists made up for no reason) doesn't factor into the whales' plight at all! Yep, this is truly a movie for everyone. Except economists. I don't think they would like it very much.

Anyway, the facts are that on October 7, 1988, an Iñupiat hunter found three gray whales trapped in ice in the Beaufort Sea. Thus began Operation Breakthrough, involving the thawing (heh) of Cold War animosities, countless amounts of money and cooperation among wildly disparate groups of people.

Cutting away five miles of sea ice in sub-zero temperatures may sound insurmountable -- but getting environmentalists, politicians and oil companies to work together? Impossible.

Or so it seems.

Big Miracle tracks these conflicting interests: the environmentalists who are literally trying to save the whales; the Iñupiat villagers who are legally entitled to hunt them (the whales, not the environmentalists); the US military who must, horrors!, ask the Soviets for help; an oil executive on a PR mission; and a pair of entrepreneurs who smell money. And of course, there are the politicians and journalists, the boils on the ass of every news story, even one happening in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

Dermot Mulroney as the frustrated Colonel Scott Boyer is a real standout. It's also worth mentioning that he is in both of this winter's Animal Movies Set in Alaska. He has what is probably the nicest character and the most moving scene in The Grey, a very different, non-conservationally oriented movie about man-eating wolves.

Another bright spot is John Krasinski as Adam, a TV news reporter sick of being stuck in a small market -- that is until the story of the whales gets picked up by national news programs. First to arrive is Rachel (Drew Barrymore), a Green Peace activist who has nothing to contribute except good intentions

As all of our many characters join forces, the challenge seems to grow even more insurmountable. Even the combined efforts of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbechev can't ensure an entirely happy outcome, but it isn't a disaster either.

The parts with whales are great. I don't know why they felt it necessary to include a half-baked romance element -- because that's what you expect when John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore are in a movie? It was a bad choice in an otherwise nice film.

Fri, February 03
Click here to view site
123 mins.
$ 40M
$ 8M
$ 9M