'Chasing Ice' is grand, extreme and troubling
PG-13; ★★★★ (out of 4)
“Chasing Ice” is a grand adventure, a visual amazement and a powerful warning. The documentary follows acclaimed environmental photographer and former global-warming skeptic James Balog on his mission to capture what he calls “tangible visual evidence of the immediacy of climate change.”
Until recent years, Balog couldn't believe that human intervention could change the planet's sea levels and glacial ice packs. Then he saw it for himself, revisiting sites where he had once seen “the endless variation and beauty and fascination” of glaciation, now reduced to bare rock. Balog felt that without having seen “the miracle and horror” of the collapse of an ice shelf the size of Lower Manhattan, people couldn't comprehend the forces that were at work. “What they need is a believable, understandable piece of visual evidence, something that grabs ‘em in the gut.”
Six years ago, he established the Extreme Ice Survey, mounting three-dozen high-tech time-lapse cameras in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Montana. The goal was to record changes over six months, creating a video representation of glacial retreat.
The project was arduous for Balog, whose knees, abused by years of mountaineering, resembled baggies of loose gravel. At a frigid base camp, we see him preparing his battered legs with braces “for the day's festivities.” His team coped with vertiginous climbs over don't-look-down abysses, literally the height of danger. His specially designed camera systems took a battering from animals and extremes of cold and wind. At times, the project seems like an exercise in futility.
Producer/director Jeff Orlowski makes Balog's frustration touchingly dramatic, capturing moments when he wipes away tears. Like Balog, Orlowski uses evocative, emotional imagery to illustrate the hard facts that ice is on the run and seas are on the rise.
“Glaciers matter, because they're the canary in the global coal mine,” Balog said. “They're where you can see climate change happening.” He sees the issue not as a matter of policy but of perception. With the information his cameras could provide, “we still have a chance to face the greatest challenge of our century.”
“Chasing Ice” is included in the 15-film shortlist for this year's documentary Academy Award. It's a thrillingly cinematic story, with breathtaking backdrops and cold-sweat scenes of imperiled climbers on iffy ledges worthy of an action epic. Its film values are as polished and impressive as its presentation of climate-change science, and that's saying a lot.
— (Minneapolis) Star Tribune
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- DVD reviews: ‘Transcendence,’ ‘Blue Ruin’ and ‘Sabotage’
- Lights, action, graffiti: Pittsburgh stands in for NYC in ‘Southpaw’