Monday, February 26, 2018

Review of Big Miracle (2012)

I've been in archival mode for the last week or so. First I put my physical archive in order, now I've turned to my digital archive (which is scattered across various virtual locations, and which I'm centralising on Google Drive). The world would hardly recover from the loss of The Black Father, my first stab at a novel- which is so bad that even I wouldn't re-read it.

I may put various curios up on the blog. Don't grumble.

Anyway, here's a film review that I wrote for the library newsletter a few years back. Re-reading it makes me want to watch it again!

Here’s a big miracle for you; a film all about tolerance, co-operation and (literally) saving whales that isn’t unbearably dull. In fact, Big Miracle is so good that, even as I watching it, I was thinking: “I’m going to watch this again soon.”

It’s 1985, and a family of three whales trying to migrate from Alaskan to Mexican waters are trapped by thick ice. The story seems like a godsend to a TV reporter (played by John Krasinki of The Office fame) who is himself looking to migrate to a bigger pool than the uneventful Alaskan city of Barrow.

He hopes the story will get him noticed in the wider world, but the sensation it creates is beyond his wildest dreams. Soon the world’s media is jetting to the inhospitable region, an oil tycoon is trying to win some environmental kudos by joining in the rescue efforts, the only topic schoolchildren want to pick for their compositions is the plight of the whales, and Ronald Reagan is on the phone to Gorbachev to ask for Soviet assistance in the rescue attempt. (He opens the call with, “Hello, Gorby. It’s Ronnie.”)

I was drawn to this film for a few reasons. One is that I like films set in cold places. I also like films set in small, remote communities—they are quite a tonic in our world of urban sprawl and instant communication. On both these counts, I was very satisfied with Big Miracle. The film draws attention over and over again to the coldness of the climate and the obscurity of the area and its mostly Eskimo inhabitants.

Another thing that drew me to Big Miracle, from the time I saw it advertised on the side of a bus, is that the film positively screams “wholesome family fare”. And it really is wholesome. More wholesome than a bowl of porridge after a morning jog. It is brimming over with messages about the value of indigenous traditions, the price of careerism, the importance of community and other worthy themes. Nobody gets shot, nobody takes their clothes off (except to get into a diving suit), and there are no real baddies.

If all of that makes you feel a bit sick, then it’s best avoided. Otherwise, you might have a whale of a time with a film that clips along at a grand pace but still finds time for lots of funny and charming moments.


  1. Very naughty of you to still say 'eskimo'

    1. Good God, I can't keep up! Eskimo is bad too now? Yikes!

    2. Cadburys New Zealand had a controversy a few years ago about a marshmallow bar they made there called 'ESKIMO BAR or something. Someone with " Inuit" ancestry was on holidays from Canada and claimed to be very offended by it.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. And I can remember Golly bars in Ireland, that had a picture of a golliwog on the wrapper.

  2. Somebody was complaining about the sale of gollies in Australia recently too......

  3. According to the (larger edition) of the Oxford Dictionary, the word became offensive due to a now-discredited etymological theory that it meant 'people who eat raw meat' in Algonquian, whereas it probably means ' people who speak a different language'.
    We won't tell on you.