Haven't we seen "Chasing Ice" before?
Why yes, in fact, we have. It came out six years ago, back when it was called "An Inconvenient Truth." Both films are nature themed documentaries, using intriguing evidence to warn audiences about climate change while also providing ample backstory to humanize our main environmental crusader in the hopes of making his message even more potent.
There is, however, a difference. Al Gore's Oscar-winning feature used plentiful charts, graphs and statistics, occasionally interrupted by startling visual proof. "Chasing Ice," on the other hand, centers the movie's case on its star's extensive and compelling collection of visual evidence, with charts and stats intermittently cutting in. Surprisingly, while "An Inconvenient Truth" may be the landmark movie that established the modern enviro-doc template, it's "Chasing Ice" that presents the more compelling and cinematic argument.
Director Jeff Orlowski's film follows renowned nature photographer James Balog as he attempts one of his most daring and expansive projects, the Extreme Ice Survey. The mission is to set up several dozen time-lapse cameras across several nations, chronicling years and years of changes to some of the globe's most visually arresting glacier formations. Balog's plan is to collect these photos into short vignettes, serving as clear, indisputable proof of humanity's staggering impact on some of the planet's most fragile natural wonders
Things don't always go as planned for the eco-conscious explorers. Many of their time-lapse cameras refuse to properly sync up, creating inconsistent footage. In other cases, the cameras' programming flat out refuses to work, mostly due to the beautiful but harsh conditions in locales like Alaska and Greenland. The equipment isn't the only thing taking a beating either. Throughout filming, the constant hiking and climbing takes a toll on Balog, resulting in numerous knee surgeries and several warnings from doctors to slow down, advice more often than not ignored.
As it turns out, the years of suffering and hard work were worth it, as their photos and mini-films deliver some shockingly powerful images of the globe's ice in rapid decay. The formations look gorgeous, and they're breathtakingly massive, but they're also quietly dying, either by melting away or calving off into the ocean. "Chasing Ice" saves the time-lapse vignettes for the last act of the film, but when they show them, it's amazing and horrifying to see how much has been lost and how fast.
Balog and Orlowski know that the graphs and speculation tactic has already been seen, and worse yet, it can be ignored easily. It's surprisingly easy to be dubious of numbers. As a result, the movie only uses one or two charts and instead puts its energy toward finding visual proof that can't be pushed aside.
I've seen graphs before; what I haven't seen is a glacier chunk the size of several football fields sliding off into the ocean with monumental force. I haven't witnessed a glacier disappear right before my eyes. The evidence in "Chasing Ice" evidence may not be quite as timely as other environmental docs before it (climate change is no longer the sexy cause of the moment it once was), but it's certainly there, and it's eye-catching.
Interwoven with the melting glaciers and Arctic explorations are little glimpses into Balog's personal life. The audience meets his supportive wife Suzanne, hears about his struggles and watches as his knee slowly hinders his work in the field. "Chasing Ice" comes just short of calling Balog a martyr for his cause.
Humanizing as it may be, though, anytime Orlowski steps away from the ice or the project feels unnecessary (much like Gore's personal asides in "An Inconvenient Truth"). When it gets back to nature, the film comes back alive and delivers a case more convincing than anything a glorified PowerPoint presentation could.
But back to our original question: Haven't we seen "Chasing Ice" before? Yes, we have, but the sad part is that we still need its message. We still haven't changed.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Feb. 25, 2015
"The Lego Movie Sequel" made headlines yesterday announcing its newly appointed director: Rob Schrab, a veteran of TV shows like "The Mindy Project," "Children's Hospital" and, most notably, NBC's beloved cult hit "Community." He also wrote the indie hit comic book "Scud: The Disposable Assassin." Oh, and he's also from Wisconsin! Everything is local! Everything is cool when you're from Milwaukee!
Published Feb. 25, 2015
If you've kept an ear to the local music scene over the past year or two, the odds are good that you've heard about GGOOLLDD. The band hits the Company Brewing (the former Stonefly Brewery) stage on Saturday night as a part of Arte Para Todos. Before that, however, OnMilwaukee.com caught up with the group to learn more about Milwaukee's latest music obsession.
Published Feb. 24, 2015
In the war between honesty and artifice, "Still Alice" has a pretty phenomenal performance in the former's corner.
Published Feb. 22, 2015
In movies, time travel typically ends up in the hands of the decent or deserving. "Hot Tube Time Machine 2" proposes ... what if it didn't? What if, instead, it wound up in the depraved hands of a bunch of restrained man-child ids, who then proceeded to violate space, time and everyone and everything they ran into along the way? The answer? Some laughs, I guess. A good amount of silence too. Bags don't come much more mixed than this.
Published Feb. 20, 2015
After months of hoopla and think-piecing (and a bomb scare just for extra drama) the Oscars are finally set to go this Sunday. And I suppose that means it's time to get my picks in order.
Published Feb. 18, 2015
Local rock band Eagle Trace has a new EP - "Off in the Night" - primed for release this weekend at a show at Anodyne Coffee in Walker's Point on Saturday, Feb. 21. For the guys, it's exactly the step forward they're hoping for. It's an understandably exciting one after about a year of drama and tension for Eagle Trace. And not just because of the predictable brotherly bickering - though there's some of that as well.
Published Feb. 16, 2015
The fan favorite jukebox musical "Mamma Mia!" - arriving at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on Friday for a five-show weekend stint - tells the tale of love found and thriving in the midst of the Mediterranean, all to the tune of ABBA hits. For ensemble cast members Jennifer and Vince Wingerter, it's a story that rings true in real life.
Published Feb. 14, 2015
It's Valentine's Day, which means many will be showing their love to their significant others, boyfriends, girlfriends and so on. But how much do we show our love to our pets - dogs in particular? According to a recent survey, as far as Wisconsinites go compared to the rest of the U.S., we're somewhere in the middle.
Published Feb. 14, 2015
Over 16 years of "SpongeBob SquarePants," the Nickelodeon cartoon's blend of childish giddiness, meta jokes and kooky non sequiturs has landed alongside Fruit Roll-Ups and naps in the middle section of a Venn diagram of things kids and cannabis users can equally love. That's certainly the case with the chatty cleaning device's delightfully wackadoodle second big screen trip, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water."
Published Feb. 14, 2015
Considering that source material is erotic "Twilight" fan fiction, the bar isn't exactly set high, but overall, there's a surprising amount of cinematic pleasure to be found in "Fifty Shades of Grey" - plus an unfortunately predictable amount of pain.