by Tim Ross
Theaters have recently seen a slate of feel-good films based on true stories – “Soul Surfer,” “Dolphin Tale,” “Moneyball” – in which the truth is more enthralling than fiction.
John Krasinski plays Adam, a small time reporter with big plans. While wrapping up a travelogue in small Alaskan towns, John goes to cover one final story and discovers a family of grey whales – mother, father and baby – stuck under the ice with only a small area of open water to surface in.
Suddenly, Adam finds himself on the national news as word spreads of the whales’ plight. His ex-girlfriend and Greenpeace activist, Rachel (Drew Barrymore), catches wind of the story and the rescue mission is on.
“Big Miracle” has all the established qualities of a positive, true story but it’s not lacking its own identity. Set in the remote village of Barrow, Ala., the film teaches the audience about a place few have ever seen as well as the Inupiat people of that region.
An equally compelling aspect is the scope of the challenge shared by human and whale. The only way to free the whales is to cut nearly 500 holes in six-inch-thick ice to lead them to open water. At this point, the film follows the usual formula as enemies become allies and unexpected heroes emerge.
In a matter of days, the Inupiat people – historical whalers who debate the merits of harvesting whales – an oil baron (Ted Danson), the National Guard, the White House and others get in on the rescue and everyone is changed by the effort.
Promotional materials for the film advertise that it’s inspired by a true story, so how much “Big Miracle” follows true events is unclear, but it unfolds in what appears to be a factual chain of events. The veracity of the film’s plot is confirmed during the end credits when small bits of the historic footage are shown. In those scenes from the real events, we see a much younger Tom Brokaw, Larry King and a cameo you won’t believe in a newsreel from an Anchorage station.
I heard plenty of applause during the end credits from the full house at the screening. While all involved would certainly welcome attention from the critics, I suspect they will be just fine with cheering audiences around the country.
Grade: 3 out of 4
MPAA Rating: PG for language
Cast: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, John Pingayak
Studio: Universal Pictures