By Hina Tai, Muse Staff Writer
With a frozen ensemble of Alaskan culture, American journalism history, politics, international relations intertwining romances and of course magnificent colossal whales, Big Miracle dives to depths of the frigid ocean and the expanses of the Alaskan ice landscape in the near-impossible adventure to rescue a family of gray whales trapped by walls of cementing ice in the Arctic Circle.
Based on a real-life story and directed by Ken Kwapis, this film takes on its own persona, unmarred by previous whale movies such as Free Willy, to bring to the big screen a glimpse into an abrupt yet happy-ending moment in our nation’s history that mesmerized hearts around the globe.
Taking place in the hidden town of Anchorage, Alaska during the Reagan Administration and the ongoing Cold War, local broadcast journalist, Adam Carlson (played by John Krasinski), discovers three whales (whom he cleverly names Fred, Wilma, and Bambam) trapped in the Arctic ice where they struggle to keep one last opening in the thick ice blanketing the ocean, or face drowning to death.
In an attempt against time and plummeting temperatures, Carlson teams up with environmental activist and ex-girlfriend Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore) to break the biggest story of his career and pull the world to its feet to help the cause. With the aid of the Alaskan people, oil tycoons, Russian and American military, local businesses and the world as its witness, the lives of these three whales became the focal point of the national and international media as well as the glue to multiple romances.
One of the major feats of this movie is its level of accuracy to the real life people and their story. Staying true to authenticity, President Ronald Reagan’s face (or rather, his look-alike actor) is never shown in the film to maintain the reality of the experience. Instead, camera angles creatively capture only the back of his well-kept hair and structured gray suit with minimal dialogue. Even more mesmerizing to the experience is the traditional Alaskan drum music, marking every dramatic moment and breathtaking nature shot truly enthrall you in the time-honored Alaskan culture.
The juxtaposition of the ancient Alaskan traditions and modern innovations brings to the surface a deeper issue of cultural misunderstandings between the Alaskan people and the larger United States. That being said, classy humor keeps the movie light-hearted and eases the tension after every intense debate or sentimental moment, a feat which adults and children alike can appreciate, ranging from political humor to the comical relationship between Carlson and his 11-year-old best friend, Nathan (Ahmaogak Sweeny).
Whales. Drew Barrymore. Those words alone gives this movie very low initial expectations, but surprisingly, Big Miracle exceeds in combining deeper elements of history and humor to bring a real happy-ending story to life without compromising its genuineness.
And above all else – who doesn’t love another heart-wrenching whale story?