Man-made miraclesBy Rito P. Asilo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
TRUTH is stranger than fiction—and Ken Kwapis’ “Big Miracle,” which opens next week, boosts its believability and crowd-drawing appeal by inventively using archival footage to lend credibility to its far-fetched story—set in 1988, at the tail end of the Cold War—about a family of magnificent gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle of Alaska’s northernmost city, with no way of getting into the open ocean.
The movie fudges some details and takes a certain amount of artistic license to tie up its loose narrative threads, which are made more cohesive by news clips that show Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Larry King, Connie Chung, and even then sportscaster Sarah Palin discussing the plight of the troubled gentle giants—which are in grave danger of drowning!
Taking up the cudgels for the three baleen whales—nicknamed Fred, Wilma and their injured baby, Bamm-Bamm—is Greenpeace activist, Rachel (Drew Barrymore), who teams up with her ex-boyfriend, struggling TV reporter Adam (John Krasinski), and Nathan (Ahmaogak Sweeney), an Inupiat teenager, to rally whale hunters, environmental advocates, community leaders, American and Soviet soldiers, and other opposing factions to come together for a common goal. (The situation draws intense scrutiny, and attracts reporters from around the world—including a Tagalog-speaking Filipino news crew, erroneously introduced as Spanish!)
Barrymore and Krasinski lead a cast of seasoned actors (Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, John Michael Higgins and Dermot Mulroney) who breathe exciting life into the movie’s coterie of kooky and wheeling-and-dealing characters.
The heart-warming family drama is made more involving by the contrasting motivations of the different people drawn to Operation Breakthrough, the international rescue effort inspired by the true-to-life drama.
The Inupiat Eskimos want the whales for their meat; the politicians recognize the incident’s unique, vote-generating potential; the reporters acknowledge its career-boosting prospects; a pair of entrepreneurs sees it as a rare chance to promote their de-icing machine, and an oil magnate (Danson) seizes the image-tweaking opportunity to change the public’s negative perception of him. Will Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm’s life-threatening dilemma bring them the “miracles” they yearn for?
As the film juggles its comedic and dramatic moments, you’ll see how man’s inherent goodness wins out over greed, ambition and other selfish motives. Regardless of whether the protagonists’ intentions are genuine or not, there’s something about creative nonfiction you can’t tamper with—the truth!
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