I liked a lot this 2012 family drama and I am really surprised that it bombed at box office. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
Let's begin with the TRUE STORY. On October 7, 1988, Roy Ahmaogak, a hunter belonging to Inupiat nation, discovered three gray whales trapped in pack ice in the Beaufort Sea near Point Barrow, Alaska. During following three weeks an unprecedented effort was made to create an escape route through the ice field for the trapped whales. This effort united Inupiat community, biologists, Alaskan state authorities, federal government, Alaskan Air National Guard, at least one oil company, medias, civilian volunteers and last but not least two Soviet(!) icebreakers, "Vladimir Arseniev" and "Admiral Makarov". On 28 October, Soviet icebreakers managed finally to create a large enough path for the whales to escape. From that moment nobody saw the whales again and it was supposed that the operation was a success - even if there is no definite proof that animals actually survived.
The film mostly follows the true story, but unavoidably some things were changed. Some more drama but also humour was added - but I cannot really be more specific to avoid spoilers. MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! The element of real tragedy from the real life was kept in the film, but, unlike in the true story, here there is no doubt left about the ultimate issue - there is a happy end. After all, it is a family movie... Also, the names given to the three whales were changed - here they are known as Fred, Wilma and Bam-Bam, when in real life they were code-named Bonnet, Crossbeak, and Bone.
The main character is a fictitious local news reporter named Adam Carlson (John Krasinski). The second most important person is his former girlfriend Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), who is a fanatical, ultra radical, unpleasant and slightly insane environmental activist from Greenpeace. This character was inspired by real Greenpeace activist, Cindy Lowry (a person, I believe, much saner than the one in the movie). Most important secondary characters, more or less fictional, are oil tycoon J.W. McGraw (Ted Dawson), Alaskan Air National Guard Colonel Scott Boyer (Dermot Mulroney), news reporter Jill Gerard (Kristen Bell) and an ambitious White House staffer Kelly Meyers (Vinessa Shaw).
The scenario is surprisingly good. The story flows very harmoniously at good pace and never gets boring. The feeling of urgency and by moments even of tragedy is always present, but nevertheless this film contains tons of good natured humor - in fact there were at least four very clever comic moments (one of which involved a giant plush whale and another one centered around a piece of cardboard and a rodeo) which totally deserved an Oscar! On another hand, this film doesn't contain even slightest touch of vulgarity (and absolutely no foul language).
For my personal taste the strongest point of this film is that there is NO bad guys. There is certainly a confrontation of very, very divergent points of view and ultimately some tough decisions must be taken which end the debate, but the makers of this film decided that everybody has his/her story to tell, which deserves to be heard. The film is not too sugar sweet and is definitely not a fairy tale. Politicians get involved not because they love whales, but to either gather points in polls or at least to avoid losing them. The oil business gets involved mostly to try to reduce the amount of flak it takes from the environmentalist radicals - but ultimately the oil tycoon catches the "whale fever" exactly as everybody else. Soldiers are not enthusiastic about risking their lives in a whale rescue, but once they receive orders, they carry them to the letter - with considerable risk of loss of life or limb... Some civilian volunteers have a hidden agenda - albeit not necessarily an evil one... Etc. etc.
A very strong point is an almost total absence of political correctness and left-winged propaganda - much to the contrary. The lone radical environmentalist militant is shown as somebody who is so much in favor of the animals, that she tends to forget about the rights (or even existence) of humans - and her fanatic fervor very usefully reminds, that together with some good ideas, there is also an element of intolerant extremism and even sheer lunacy in those movements. Indigenous Alaskans are also shown with some ambiguity, because even if some from the beginning try to help the trapped animals, in the beginning we can see that their traditional way of life is amongst others based on hunting the whales... In fact, many Inupiat nation people see this whole thing as a good occasion to "harvest" the whales - which is a polite way to say that they want to butcher them, eat them and throw the leftovers to their dogs...
In a lesser film political correctness and left-winged ideology would immediately create the oil business, military and politicians as the villains, with environment militants, indigenous Alaskans, lots of children and some journalists as heroes. In "Big Miracle", let's stress it again, such is not the case, because if almost everybody is a hero, there is NO villains. At all!
This film is so good that I almost managed to forget that I cannot stand Drew Barrymore (even me I don't know why - this is an irrational thing). She certainly played very well in this film.
Now, THE reason why this film didn't perform at box office, is probably that it is too serious for little children. They can of course watch it, as there is no foul language or violence - but they will not understand anything. 11-12 years is probably the minimum age for a child to really get the story. Adults and teenagers will find it entertaining, but not little children - and for a film advertised as a family movie, this is a serious problem..
All this being said, I found "Big Miracle" a most interesting, very original and by moments even very courageous thing. Both me and my then 13 years old daughter we had great time watching it. A recommended viewing! ENJOY!
1988 Barrow Point, Alaska.
This film is based on a true story and includes news feeds from that era. Three migrating whales are trapped in the ice due to early freezing. It was a fluke they were reported on in the first place. Once attention grew, unlikely forces and alliances came together to save the whales. This included an oil company, Greenpeace, US and Soviet governments, the military, Eskimos, the community, private entrepreneurs, and a Barbie reporter. That was the Big Miracle.
The film contains the right mix of drama and comedy in this heart warming tale on what people can accomplish when they come together.
The end of the film shows a clip of Sarah Palin, then Heath, as a sportscaster.
on 24 August 2012
I expect more this movie, but it's a good movie to watch with the family, specially with the childrens, in a cloudy day eating a popcorn.
Just more a thing... the subtitles these movies (region free) that have "portuguese", it is the Portugal and not Brazil. There is some diferences between it, but it's possible to watch... This is a little tip for others consumers, like me, that wishes buy in the amazon.uk.
on 9 December 2013
Recommend to all that love animals and for the young to learn from this movie, inspiring active and a wonderful show for the kids to watch plus oldies. Very entertaining and the actors are great performing their lines to a tee. Everyone should take note as this is a true story about getting your act together, where ever you are from, it makes no difference north south east or west the job must be done to help save the planet and survive. This is the only one we have. Taken too much out and not enough put back in, on land and in water. Wake up world see this movie it's a must see not overdone and not boring so I rated this an A grade plus for pure delight of entertainment put to disk. Fabulous storyline with the elements of the weather make sure you have a coat on, now go collect your movie make haste to the chair, relax put your feet up with popcorn in one hand and remote in the other relax to a pleasant night in. Enjoy!