Connect with us


Chasing Ice | Review

Warming Up to the Idea; Visually Recorded Hard Facts Closes the Climate Change Case for Good

The name James Balog should be quite familiar if you’re an avid reader of National Geographic. The highly regarded photographer has been a leading pictorial contributor for the monthly for years, and his cover story on melting glaciers became the best selling issue in recent memory. Against the elements, director Jeff Orlowski has documented the development and execution of Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), a grandiose time lapse photography project that was set up across multiple continents in hopes of finding hard visual evidence of the impact of global warming on the accelerated melting of Earth’s largest glacial formations.

Despite thorough scientific research, global warming is still very much a bilateral debate because of the few remaining lobbyists. Skeptics refuse to see the facts through the data. Knowing this is true, Balog formulated a plan that sought irrefutable confirmation that global warming is causing polar meltdown much quicker than could be replenished during the frigid winter seasons. In 2007, Balog developed the EIS, forming a small team of scientists, and custom built camera gear that could withstand extreme weather conditions. The crew installed 27 cameras around the world that would take one photograph every hour for several years to document the glacial shrink. These cameras were located in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains, and the images they captured are at once astoundingly gorgeous and highly worrisome. In nearly every location glaciers are receding miles at a time with little hope of them ever recuperating.

The doc is obviously a big screen advocacy spotlight for the project, but it is also a fascinating portrait of a man infatuated with nature, photography, and their combined ability to affect people in spellbinding ways. Balog has an intense dedication to the project that prevails over absolutely insane weather conditions and repeated mechanical failures, but this same insatiable quest for photos has cost him precious time with his family and a whole host of crippling knee problems that threaten future treks. Despite the issues, his love affair with nature and his calling to help preserve it keep the project moving forward.

Featuring never before captured time lapse photography as the film’s center piece, this documentary should make for a revelatory experience for climate change naysayers. The evidence is quite conclusive. Complimenting this horrifying melt footage is an assemblage of Balog’s incredible still snapshots. Among the arctic alien landscapes, Balog finds unyielding beauty in the massive icebergs, and he aspires to share their allure with the world with a unique eye. In doing so he has heightened our appreciation for these faraway marvels while raising awareness about the seriousness of their situation at hand.

The film’s only real downside is its sequel-esque timing. If you’ve seen PBS’s 2009 Nova special on the EIS, you will have had what amounts to a thorough sneak peek at this feature length film. It covers much of the same subject matter, but the project at that point in time had yet to come full circle, making the episode an hour long half way mark. Setting that aside, Chasing Ice is a satisfying bit of filmmaking with an eye opening proclamation from a one-of-a-kind visionary. If this isn’t enough proof that the world is getting warmer, there never will be.

Reviewed on February 3rd at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival – US DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION Programme.

75 Mins.

Rating 3.5 stars

Continue Reading
You may also like...
Click to comment

More in Reviews

To Top