Big Miracle is based in part on a true story. One of the things that was interesting while watching it is that as it progressed I realized I was vaguely aware of the story as a kid. This was around the point I saw the set design was pretty accurate as there was in the film a globe I had as a child around that time. Another interesting tidbit is that if you stick around for the end credits you’ll see real footage that shows you how close to the story they stay.
The film really does tell a multi-faceted tale in as much as it deals with the political/military involvement in the rescue, the journalist’s perspective, the environmentalist’s viewpoint, the indigenous population, the oil company to an extent and also some well-meaning opportunists. This seems like a lot to handle, and it is, but the film does really well with it all. The balance stays about as good as it can be. In the end all the characters are examined, respected and working towards the same end.
Clearly with all those avenues there is quite an ensemble at work to make it happen. The two leads would have to be Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski. Both do very well but Krasinski’s the surprise offering more depth than I’m used to. They get great help from Ted Danson, Dermot Mulroney and Vinessa Shaw as the somewhat antagonistic triad. Also very noteworthy are John Pingayak and Ahmaogak Sweeney, as a tribal leader and his grandson respectively. Newcomer Sweeney is featured in perhaps the best rendered and written scene where he alone, after his grandfather failed, finds his connection to the whales.
It is not a film about the whales in and of themselves. It’s of course about the people involved but also in the grand scheme of things it’s about environmental responsibility and humanitarianism most ostensibly and the other general themes that always find their ways into stories.
As mentioned above the best moment of the film is one I’d characterize as a spiritual awakening. While there are a lot of themes and factions fighting for attention in this film the importance of the indigenous population is not overlooked and the culture is given a respectful treatment, which folds into the narrative rather than standing apart.
This film does manage to have its emotional and moving scenes both at a moment of apparent defeat and during the climax. It manages to make you invest in the characters and though it’s not Free Willy and the whales don’t become characters per se you, of course, feel for them also.
The key antagonists, roadblocks to freeing the trapped whales, are politics and money, which usually go hand in hand. I think this aspect is well handled for the most part. While there was a lot of backbiting both sides seemed accurately portrayed and the symbolism and political chess game seems well drawn.
Big Miracle might not be the simplistic movie you anticipate it to be but for all the avenues it explores it never gets unfocused. Much like the news story it’s based on it’s a unifying force that brings its characters together. It’s a fun, enjoyable and occasionally emotional movie.