In small town Alaska, Adam Carlson a news reporter recruits his ex-girlfriend Rachel – a Greenpeace volunteer – on a campaign to save a family of gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle. Adam names the adult whales Fred and Wilma, and the infant Bamm-Bamm.
Drawn into the collaborative rescue work are several normally hostile factions: Inupiat whale hunters, a Greenpeace environmental activist, an oil executive, ambitious news reporters, the National Guard, the American president and politicians on the state, national and international levels. Also joining in the effort are two entrepreneurs from Minnesota, who provide de-icing machines to help keep the hole open.
Finally an enormous Soviet ice-breaker ship arrives to remove the last barrier before the whales die. The ship's first attempt doesn't work and leaves only a dent. The ice is finally broken and the adult whales Fred and Wilma escape the ice. Sadly, the infant whale Bamm-Bamm dies from injuries and does not surface again.
In the epilogue narrated by Nathan reveals that McGraw used his new reputation to uphold a contract to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Karl and Dean's de-icers made them local celebrities, Scott and Kelly were married, Jill worked her way up to a national news network, Greenpeace membership became more prominent, Adam confesses his love for Rachel and she returns his affections and they share a kiss, Adam got to stay being a news anchor, and both Nathan and Malik became closer to one another, and Nathan recalls about the hole in which the whales were first found and quotes "It kept getting bigger and bigger, until it let the whole world in."
In a post-credits scene Fred and Wilma swim away free in the ocean.John Krasinski as Adam Carlson
Drew Barrymore as Rachel Kramer, based on Greenpeace activist Cindy Lowry
Ahmaogak Sweeney as Inupiat grandson Nathan to Malik
John Pingayak as Inupiat whaler Malik
Kristen Bell as Jill Gerard, a news reporter
Vinessa Shaw as Kelly Meyers
Stephen Root as Gov. Haskell
Ted Danson as J.W. McGraw
Kathy Baker as Ruth McGraw
Dermot Mulroney as Colonel Scott Boyer
Rob Riggle as Dean Glowacki
Michael Gaston as Porter Beckford
Ken Smith as Stu
Megan Angela Smith as Sheena
Tim Blake Nelson as Pat Lafayette
James LeGros as Karl Hootkin
Mark Ivanir as Dimitri
Stefan Kapicic as Yuri
Andrew Daly as Don Davis
Jonathan Slavin as Roger Notch
Gregory Jbara as General Stanton
John Michael Higgins as Wes Handrick
Sarah Palin as herself (archive footage, as Sarah Heath, in her brief sportscasting career)
Warner Bros. bought the screenplay by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler in April 2009, and in the following June, Kwapis was attached to direct. In September 2010, with Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski cast in the starring roles, filming began in Seward. It had a production budget of $30 or 40 million. The crew constructed sets in Anchorage to resemble places in Barrow during the whale rescue. Filming lasted for 10 weeks. The film's working title was Everybody Loves Whales, which is a line still heard in the film. Visual effects on Big Miracle were created by Rhythm and Hues Studios and Modus FX. Burger King promoted the movie with toys. The MPAA has rated this film PG for language.
The red-and-black Soviet icebreaker in the movie is modeled after real world Arktika-class nuclear-powered icebreaker which is considerably larger than the diesel-electric icebreaker used in the actual rescue effort, the 1975-built Admiral Makarov. In shots which include live footage of the 2007-built 50 Let Pobedy, the blue-and-white polar bear logo of the former operator of the Russian nuclear icebreaker fleet, Murmansk Shipping Company, is clearly visible but the atom symbol on the hull as well as the name of the vessel has been airbrushed out.
On the aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 74% positive reviews from 95 critics. The site's consensus was: "Big Miracle uses real-life events as the basis for a surprisingly satisfying family drama." Metacritic currently holds a score of 61 based on 28 reviews. The film opened with $2,267,385 on its opening day, ranking at No. 4 behind Chronicle, The Woman in Black, and The Grey at the box office. The film grossed $7,760,205 on its opening weekend and remained at the same spot. On its second weekend the film dropped to #8, with $3,946,050. The film closed its run on April 5, 2012, with $24,719,215 worldwide.