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Chasing Ice

There are at this point a whole lot of documentaries out there about global warming and climate change, and I’ve seen a bunch of them. So, I have to state up front that there’s no need to try to convince me with these—I’m already a believer. The scientific evidence is there, and the overwhelming majority opinion is that humans impacting the environment is real. Naysayer conservative kooks(like Sean Hannity)only look like buffoons as they deny global warming in some clips used for “Chasing Ice”. It’s insane to think that anyone would take the word of a college-dropout broadcasting host over learned climatologists. Call me crazy, but I’m going to take “Chasing Ice” star James Balog and his master’s degree in geomorphology(the study of landforms and the processes that shape them)over the inane spouting of some right-wing denier. That’s just the way I roll. And Mr. Balog has captured some incredible photographic footage to state his compelling case. Seeing this on a big screen would’ve been spectacular.

James Balog is a renowned environmental photographer who heads to various frozen lands across the globe, capturing startling evidence of melting glaciers. Initially a global warming sceptic, Balog becomes a believer in the impact humans are having on the Earth after his very first trip to the Arctic. He almost immediately finds the evidence to be irrefutable. Balog eventually initiates the Extreme Ice Survey expedition, and he and his team set up a series of time-lapse cameras to study the world’s glaciers and their rapid deterioration. That’s not as simple as it sounds, however. The harsh weather impact on the photographic equipment is devastating, as extreme cold and falling rocks and ice destroy many of the camera set-ups. Also, decades of perpetual hiking in snowy, mountainous regions has caused severe damage to Balog’s knees. He’s already had a couple of surgeries, and is heading in for another during the filming of “Chasing Ice”. It’s all pretty compelling stuff, and when we finally see the awe-inspiring footage of ice calving(the breaking away of slabs of glacier ice)taking place right in front of the cameras, we applaud that the team’s resilience is being rewarded.

“Chasing Ice” director Jeff Orlowski did not receive the coveted Best Documentary Feature nomination for the 2012 Academy Award. But luckily, the film did receive an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song(losing to Adele’s “Skyfall”). “Before My Time” is played over the closing credits and is performed by Scarlett Johansson of all people(with Joshua Bell)! The reason the nomination is important is because it brings the film and its message that much more attention. In fact, I’m not certain it would’ve been on my radar without the Academy acknowledgement, so I’m pleased it’s receiving the additional recognition. And it’s a solid work with outstanding photography and easy-to-digest information. It is a bit slight at just 74 minutes, and sometimes manages to feel like a sort-of “An Inconvenient Truth”-lite(2006’s Best Documentary Feature Oscar winner from Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore). But when you watch that extended footage of ice chunks, that are hundreds of feet tall, crumbling off the side of a glacier—you will be astounded. It’s described by the Extreme Ice Survey team members like watching all of lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers collapsing and rolling over each other—imagine being in the Arctic live for that! James Balog proves to be a crusader and a visionary who has endangered his life and physical well-being to present this catastrophe to people—the least we can do is watch it. You’ll be thankful for the sobering journey.     Grade:  B


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