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Title: Big Miracle
Starring: Kristen Bell, Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Ted Danson, Stephen Root, Dermot Mulroney
Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Written by: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler
Studio: Universal Pictures
Rated: PG
Runtime: 107 min
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 19, 2012

Movie :3stars:
Video :3stars:
Audio :3stars:
Extras :2.5stars:
HTS Overall Score:


Set in 1988 and based on a true story Big Miracle recounts how the northern people of Barrow, Alaska, interested parties, and media from around the USA rallied to help save three gray whales stuck in the icy waters off Point Barrow from drowning.

Big Miracle opens in Amigo’s Mexican Restaurant in Barrow, Alaska where Adam Carlson
(Krasinski) and everyone else in the restaurant are watching him on TV reporting for Channel 2 News on how an avocado makes it to a Mexican restaurant to be enjoyed as guacamole. Following the broadcast a young native boy Carlson has befriended reminds him he promised to do a story on his cousin who performs snowmobile tricks. While filming the boy’s cousin drive in circles in a lackluster manner, something in the background grabs Carlson’s attention. Zooming in closer the blurry images turn out to a whale bobbing its head through the water. He sends the footage to HQ in Anchorage which eventually becomes a story detailing how three California gray whales, two adults and their baby are trapped in the icy waters off Point Barrow. Unlike the bowhead whale, gray whales can’t break through the ice with their heads. Keeping the air hole open is resulting in cuts and bruises and the experts say they won’t be able to keep this going for too long. There are five miles to open water, which the whales can’t swim without going up for air. Aside from the ice getting thicker and making the struggle all the more futile, the Inupiat people want to harvest the whales to meet their quota.

Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer (Barrymore) working out of Anchorage and Carlson’s ex-girlfriend informs Governor Haskell (Root) of the tragedy hoping to start a campaign to save the majestic mammals. The story reaches NBC Studios in New York and KABC Studios, Los Angeles and eventually the Whitehouse. In the meantime reporters and experts are converging in Barrow to get a firsthand look at the plight, namely Jill Jerald (Bell) who Carlson seems to have a crush on. As Barrow starts to become a busy media hub Kramer on behalf of oil magnate J.W. McGraw (Danson) has secured an icebreaking hover barge to use in the rescue, the only hitch is the National Guard must tow the barge from Prudhoe Bay to Barrow and for this to happen Governor Haskell must give the go ahead. Once the press release stating the endeavour is over and pictures taken for PR purposes, Colonel Scott Boyer (Mulroney) is assigned to head the rescue effort and tow the barge via helicopters the 270 miles. Once the barge gets there it will pulverize the ice, thus making an open water route for the whales to swim along. The whaling captains have also decided not to slay the whales, but help free them.

Although the barge is en route and the Inupiat whaling captains have decided against killing the whales and instead aid in maintaining the hole’s size, the weather is dropping drastically causing ice to form more rapidly making it harder for the volunteers to keep the hole open. The situation is becoming dire as the whales exhaustively surface for air battling the ice chunks, which causes them more physical harm.

With the rescue slow moving you really get drawn into the story and wonder just how the whales will be able to fend off the aggressive ice until the hover barge arrives to blast the ice into tiny pieces. As the precious hours pass by the whales are receiving more and more news coverage and Barrow continues to swell in numbers on account of reporters from all over the USA trying to make their mark, but it turns out the hover barge will not be coming. The rink-sized craft careened into a giant Arctic pothole even bigger than itself, nearly causing the helicopters towing it to crash into each other. With the hover barge stuck and rendered useless Boyer still assures the press the National Guard will do everything possible to save the whales.

Big Miracle doesn’t just focus on the whales, it diverts to relationships between Kramer and
Carlson, Carlson and Jerald and a few others. Whitehouse politics, the Soviet Union and the relentless efforts and work of the indigenous people, the community and other volunteers from different facets of life are also highlighted. A few of the storylines could be viewed as superfluous and some characters despite being played by A-list actors seemed inconsequential to the outcome, but it didn’t bother me because everything was straight forward and added a little diversity to the main storyline.

Krasinksi, Barrymore, Bell and Danson all play their roles in a likeable fashion. The dialogue never felt forced and came across as pretty natural and for the most part genuine. Casting actual Inupiat whalers added to the authenticity of the movie and provided a little insight into their views on whaling and how important it is to pass along knowledge to younger generations.


PG for language.

Video :3stars:

The stars of the movie are the whale and the combination of CGI and animatronics used to place them on
screen is outstanding. There are many close-ups of the whales as they surface for air and the texture and detail is very high. You get a clean look at their skin with all its ridges and wrinkles and the front of their heads where the skin has been worn away due to constantly hitting ice, leaving a pinkish exposed portion of flesh. That part actually made me a bit squeamish. The vast snow covered expanse of Alaska looks natural and the white portions contrast nicely against the town and its inhabitants. Varying black levels are very evident, unfortunately to the point where much of the black clothing worn completely loses its detail. At times vibrant colors seem too vibrant and saturated. I struggled quite a bit with liking the picture in this movie and overall I’m a bit let down because the movie doesn’t involve anything fantastic or fictional worlds, so it should have been easy to give the audience a gentle comforting image throughout.

Audio :3stars:

Dialogue is nicely prioritized against the lively songs and everyday environmental sounds and noises. The score is constantly swelling and then subsiding according to the gravity of the situation. Under water scenes with the whales slowly rising and then descending are immersive and produce a little rumbling from the subwoofer. The sound of helicopter rotors spinning is powerful. The whales don’t make too many sounds, but when they break through the water and ice to surface or blow mist from their blowholes, everything sounds natural and robust. There’s also a nice variety of songs incorporated into the soundtrack. Big Miracle offers up a typical safe family soundtrack that never really shines, but also never disappoints.

Extras :2.5stars:

Behind the Scenes with Intros by Director Ken Kwapis
A ‘Big Miracle’ In Alaska
Truth is Stranger Than Fiction
Feature Commentary with Director Ken Kwapis


Big Miracle has a lot going for it and those who like it won’t have many negatives comments
to make and it definitely qualifies as a wholesome family movie, but through all the melodrama the end result is too quick, without enough substance and leaves you with questions that should have been addressed. I guess if you can get over that you’ll feel informed and happy you watched the movie.

Recommendation: Rent it
Watch the Official Trailer
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