2012 Certificate: pg


It's Free Willy on ice as Alaskan TV reporter John Krasinski and eco-warrior Drew Barrymore come to the rescue of three grey whales trapped in the fast-freezing waters near a tiny Arctic town. Capturing the world's attention, their race against time soon becomes headline news, uniting everyone from the native community and the National Guard to the White House and beyond. Based on a true story from 1988, this environmentally friendly family adventure is designed to warm your heart and chill your tootsies.


  • Ken Kwapis


  • John Krasinski

  • Drew Barrymore

  • Dermot Mulroney

  • Kristen Bell

  • Ted Danson


Making David Attenborough's Frozen Planet look like a gripe about melting ice cubes, this Arctic escapade is so green it's a miracle they got permission to build on it.

Inspired by Operation Breakthrough, an international effort to free a family of California grey whales from the ice surrounding Point Barrow in northern Alaska, the distress call here is raised by nice-but-going-nowhere newsman Adam (Krasinski).

To the hapless cetaceans, it's a matter of life and death.

To Adam, concerned as he is, it could be his ticket out of town. To his ex-girlfriend, fearless Greenpeace campaigner Rachel (Barrymore), it's another cause that cannot be ignored - a point she makes to both the state governor and her old nemesis, oil magnate J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson).

For once, they have to agree. Because to them, saving animals in distress is good publicity. To Colonel Scottie Boyer (Dermot Mulroney) - the no-nonsense National Guard pilot ordered to fly McGraw's ice-busting rig to Barrow - it's his duty. To the native Inupiat tribe, however, it's a waste of good meat.

But they too can see that chowing down on the gentle giants might not shed their community in a good light. Especially with half the world's press descending on Barrow, including Adam's favourite LA newsbabe Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell). To Jill, it's a career-making scoop.

No doubt about it, it's in everybody's best interests to get Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm (as the family is rather inconsistently nicknamed) to safety. Unfortunately, getting three living submarines through five miles of solid ice is not as easy as it looks.

Maybe a couple of de-icer salesmen from Minnesota could help? It would be a great advert for their product. And with the only ice-breaker in the area belonging to Russia, it presents the perfect opportunity for a show of glasnost from the superpowers that be.

To the watching world, it's a worthy story, straightly told. The tightness of the situation makes it a little light on underwater action, but people power saves the day through a slew of engaged and engaging performances, particularly from the ever-affable Krasinski and Alaska native Ahmaogak Sweeney as his enterprising young pal.

The only (human) casualty is Barrymore whose one-note character never tires of clubbing everyone to pulp with the environmental message.

In movies like this, objectivity is an endangered species. But for all its biodegradable flag-waving, the script also acknowledges that Greenpeace did pretty nicely out of the affair too.

As the real news footage shows, small stories can make the biggest impression. Happy endings obviously help.

So while you'll have to google Operation Breakthrough (or read journalist Thomas Rose's source book Freeing The Whales) for the whole truth, this is one instance where Hollywood's near-enough is good enough.