out of Five
Running time: 107
Well made and superbly acted by a strong ensemble cast, this is an enjoyable, warmly written drama that resists the temptation to overdose on sentimentality and delivers a strong message.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ken Kwapis and based on a true story, Big Miracle is set in 1988 and stars John Krasinski as Adam Carlson, an aspiring reporter based in the tiny, frozen community of Barrow in northern Alaska. He stumbles upon a heartbreaking story about three whales (a father, mother and child, quickly nick-named Fred, Wilma and Bam-Bam) trapped beneath the icecap, unable to reach the open sea and surfacing to breathe through just a small hole in the ice.
When Adam's report is picked up by the major networks, the plight of the whales grabs the attention of both the media and the public and soon a bizarre collection of people are heavily involved in the rescue effort, including his Greenpeace activist ex (Drew Barrymore), a fellow journalist he has a crush on (Kristen Bell), a media-savvy oil baron (Ted Danson), an air force pilot (Dermot Mulroney), President Reagan's White House rep (Vinessa Shaw), a whale expert (Tim Blake Nelson), a young Inuit boy (Ahmaogak Sweeney), two brothers from Minnesota with an invention they want to share with the world (James LeGros, Rob Riggle), and the Russian Navy.
If they gave out Oscars for Best Casting Director, Big Miracle would surely be in the running, because the top-notch cast is comprised of a selection of immensely likeable actors who are all adept at comedy (except Mulroney, but that works in his character's favour). This gives the film a lightness of touch that works well, despite the fact that this isn't a comedy per se.
The warmhearted script cleverly juggles several well written characters and throws up surprising and charming details that you'd think were made up for the film, but the real-life footage that plays over the end credits reveals to be true. It also doesn't shy away from the reality of some of the characters' motivations (there's a tantalising suggestion that if Reagan had let the whales die, Bush might have lost the 1988 election), though it refrains from anything more cutting than a note of subtle cynicism.
Ultimately, the film delivers an important message about co-operation and Kwapis commendably resists the temptation to over-sentimentalise the story (it's easy to imagine how mawkish it could have been in the hands of a different director). Finally, keep your eyes peeled for an inspired cameo (sort of) by a very young Sarah Palin towards the end.
Big Miracle is an enjoyable, well made and superbly written drama that tells an engaging and inspiring true story with strong performances from a likeable cast. Recommended.