Saturday, February 4, 2012

Big Miracle [2012]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  Michael Phillips (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Michael Phillips' review -,0,3012326.story

Big Miracle (directed by Kevin Kwapis, screenplay by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler based on the book by Thomas Rose named Freeing the Whales: How the Media Created the World's Greatest Non-Event [1989] recently repackaged The Big Miracle [2011] to coincide with the release of the film ...) is indeed a nice feel-good family movie suitable for all but the smallest of children about a seemingly small event -- the 1988 rescue of three California grey whales stranded by ice off the coast of Point Barrow, Alaska -- that came to involve the cooperation of a truly improbable / remarkable coalition of rescuers.

These rescuers included:

Adam Carlson (played by John Krasinski) an Alaskan television reporter (affiliated at the time with NBC) who came upon this story as he was finishing a three month stint of reporting from Point Barrow, Alaska at the northern-most tip of the United States;

Rachel Cramer (played by Drew Berrymore) an Alaskan Green-Peace activist, previously romantically involved with Carlson who picked-up on the story soon after Carlson had reported it; 

J.W. McGraw (played by Ted Danson) an oil executive, who despite having had documented run-ins with Cramer over oil drilling leases, became involved after the story went national (apparently then NBC Evening News Anchor Tom Brokaw loved stories like this) and was convinced by his wife Ruth (played by Kathy Baker) that it would actually be good for his company public in terms of public relations, if he offered the services of his company's ice-breaking hovercraft barge, then located at the oil producing center of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska;

Col. Scott Beyer (played by Dermot Mulroney) of the Alaska Air National Guard, who was tasked by Alaska's Governor Haskell (played by Stephen Root) to direct the transportation of McGraw's barge from Prudhoe Bay to Point Barrow with aid of two of AANG's Sikorski skycrane helicopters.

Kelly Meyers (played by Vinessa Shaw) liason from then President Reagan's White House.  According to the film, having met as a result of this rescue effort and obviously having "hit it off," Meyers and Col. Beyer, actually married a year after the story took place;

The normally whale-hunting Inuit/Eskimo residents of Point Barrow, Alaska including 10-year old Nathan (played by Ahmaogak Sweeney) and his grandfather, Inuit/Eskimo elder Malik (played by John Pinkayak);

Two Minnesota small-time entrepreneurs Karl Hootkin (played by James LeGros) and Dean Glowacki (played by Rob Riggle) who arrived with a useful ice-melting gizmo that actually helped keep the the air holes being made in the ice by volunteers for the whales from freezing up;

And finally the crew of a Soviet icebreaker, led in the film by Captains Yuri (played by Stefan Kapicic) and Dimitri (played by Mark Ivanir), which was dispatched by then Soviet premier Gorbachev upon request of then U.S. President Reagan after it became clear that the only asset near enough to make a difference in the rescue effort would be Soviet.

All these people as well as a flood of reporters, big and small, including Jill Jerard, then of Los Angeles (played by Kristen Bell) came to the rescue of the three whales, who came to be known affectionately as Fred, Wilma and Bambam from the Flintstones cartoon.

Again, it's a feel good movie.  But it does remind us that all kinds of people can come together, "cut through the ice" and even "move mountains," when mobilized for a task that is nice.

At a time when the United States is so polarized it may be nice to remember that in the case of rescuing these three stranded grey whales, activists from Green Peace and Oil Execs, to say nothing of the Americans and Soviets, were able to work together.  The question becomes, could we work together now?  For the sake of our country and our world, hopefully the answer remains yes.

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