Chasing Ice– Movie Review
Photographer and naturalist James Balog established the Extreme Ice Survey in 2007 to photograph the progress of glaciers in an unprecedented, extended format. His results are brought to life in vivid, gorgeous, disturbing, and moving detail in the documentary Chasing Ice. And at just over an hour, no, you won’t get bored watching this amazingly compelling depiction of ice melting.
The movie not only displays EIS’s final products, but documents the entire trial of capturing the images under some of the harshest weather conditions on the planet- all while profiling the life and work of Balog. The scenes of fiddling with custom-made equipment, and then installing and maintaining it in sub-zero temperatures and hurricane-force winds, are a testament to the collection of data and documentation that we often take for granted.
The results are stunning time-lapse collages of glaciers throughout Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and Montana retreating for miles and shrinking in height- sometimes further and deeper in the last ten years than they had migrated in the previous century all together.
But the real star of the movie is actually Balog and team’s still photos and videos. Balog’s high resolution snap shots of the arctic, as well as his other nature photography included throughout, like plant life highlighted by white backdrops, are breathtakingly beautiful. They are sculptural and ethereal, sometimes evoking alien landscapes (by his own admission).
Just as affecting were the rare videos his team captured of glaciers “calving,” or breaking off into the ocean. The scale is difficult to comprehend, but the thunderous rumblings of the events helps. In one, a graphic explains that the calving is as if all of downtown Manhattan broke off, flipped over, and drifted away- but the peaks were twice as high.
The film doesn’t work as well as a profile of Balog. As interesting and compelling a character as he is, the narrative veered into self-aggrandizement.
Chasing Ice carries a blatant political message- although it is the message that science shouldn’t be political. I don’t know if this film will change anyone’s mind, but with amazing visuals, solid science, and compelling entertainment value, it is a strong contribution to the effort.
Did you see Chasing Ice? What do you think?