Chasing Ice

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Jeff Orlowski

Starring

James Balog Louie Psihoyos Svavar Jónatansson

Anticipation.

Jeff Orlowski’s doc has been praised for its incredible photography.

Enjoyment.

A standard issue eco doc, albeit one you may want to catch on a big, big screen.

In Retrospect.

Is this about the hazards of global warming or the awesomeness of James Balog? Not entirely sure…

Scenes of mass devastation have rarely looked so gorgeous, but this hectoring doc could’ve done something better with them.

What an odd documentary this is. Director Jeff Orlowski, with the assistance of professional ‘ice chaser’ James Balog, captures footage of glaciers the size of Manhattan crumbling to pieces in front of his camera. It’s a stunning natural marvel, with sky-scraper-sized hunks of creamy blue ice suddenly writing on top the water beneath them.

The natural response to these images is that we’re being allowed to witness some sublime natural ballet which only a handful of people on this rapidly decimating planet can claim to have witnessed first hand.

What we really should be thinking is that this is actually rather bad, and the incessant melting of glaciers in Greenland and the North and South Poles could be potentially cataclysmic news for millions of people. But it’s hard to muster a feeling of awe and disgust simultaneously, and so Chasing Ice’s message is somewhat muddied. Damn all this destruction for looking so damn beautiful!

Balog is the brainchild of the Extreme Ice Survey and, if this documentary is supposed to be believed, some kind of Earthly deity. He selflessly rejects his wife and children and the pleas of various health officials in order to do his bit to save the planet. He does this by posting cameras primed to take time-lapse images of the natural landscape which not only helps him to measure the rate of melting ice, but saddles him with much evocative footage to fight his cause back on dry land.

Obviously it’s harsh to chide someone so dedicated to such a noble and important cause, but Balog comes across as preachy, sanctimonious and hectoring in his attempts to deliver his message. There are even times – like a major hissy-fit in front of a defective camera – you feel that he may pull a prosthetic mask of to reveal a cackling Christopher Guest.

Perhaps the problem is that we don’t need Balog here for this images to tell their story. The human story here is something of a dead weight, especially when we’re being given scenes of natural devastation that look like they’ve been beamed in from another galaxy.

Published 13 Dec 2012

Tags: Jeff Orlowski

Anticipation.

Jeff Orlowski’s doc has been praised for its incredible photography.

Enjoyment.

A standard issue eco doc, albeit one you may want to catch on a big, big screen.

In Retrospect.

Is this about the hazards of global warming or the awesomeness of James Balog? Not entirely sure…

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