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 Sept. 22, 2014
Cory Chisel currently calls Nashville home, but the folk country Americana rock band leader certainly hasn't cut ties with Wisconsin, the state that he called home for many years before hitting the road and making it big.
Published Sept. 21, 2014
If you were spitballing names for the ideal cast for a new grown-up dramedy, you might dream up something closely resembling the roll call for "This Is Where I Leave You." It's an impressive gathering of talented, charismatic performers. Unfortunately, they've been assembled for a less than impressive movie, a trite and tonally bipolar dramedy that doesn't deserve the embarrassment of charming, comedic riches at its disposal.
Published Sept. 19, 2014
It's been a turbulent few years for Aaron Freeman, more commonly known as Gene Ween from the band Ween. After much self-repair, however, the musician is himself again - literally - recording and performing as the lead in his new band, fittingly titled Freeman. The band has a new album, along with a tour stopping at Turner Hall Ballroom. Before then, OnMilwaukee.com chatted with Freeman about the road to recovery, music and himself.
Published Sept. 18, 2014
Character actor David Eigenberg is likely best known for spending multiple seasons and two movies romancing Cynthia Nixon's Miranda Hobbes on the iconic HBO TV show "Sex and the City." Eigenberg's latest television project nowadays, however, is far from high fashion and high living in New York City. Instead of a fiery redhead, Eigenberg now co-stars with actual flames on NBC's "Chicago Fire."
Published Sept. 17, 2014
In 2010, Mark Clements arrived in Milwaukee and, in his first act as artistic director, brought something to the Milwaukee Rep's main stage that oddly it had never seen in its impressive history: a musical. Several years later, Clements has made it a bit of a tradition to feature a musical in the Rep's main house schedule. 2014 is no different and the Powerhouse opens up with "The Color Purple."
Published Sept. 15, 2014
The title of The War on Drugs' latest album is "Lost in the Dream," fitting for a record - and a moment in time - that utterly enveloped front man Adam Granduciel. The band is now taking the final product on the road, including a stop at The Pabst Theater on Sunday, Sept. 21. Before then, Granduciel chatted with OnMilwaukee.com about becoming a real band on the road, the process behind the album and the inner battles that went into it.
Published Sept. 14, 2014
It's hard to imagine there was much clamoring for a sequel to "Dolphin Tale." The first film was a modest early fall success back in 2011, but even then, the story of Winter the dolphin was already fairly thin dramatic material, serving as little more than a nice pleasant aside. Still, somebody thought it was a good idea to head back to the well, and surprisingly - judging from "Dolphin Tale 2" - that person wasn't wrong.
Published Sept. 12, 2014
The Brewers are desperately trying to pull themselves out of a devastating tailspin. Even when they win, they seem to lose - as evidenced by last night's Giancarlo Stanton debacle. Sounds like a good time to get baseball's favorite canine Hank the Dog back in the spotlight!
Published Sept. 10, 2014
The country-tinged rock duo of Phil Leavitt and Joie Calio worked together for years in the band Dada. 7Horse, however, marks a fairly new project for the guys. And there are certainly worse things to put on an early band's resume than being associated with an Oscar-nominated Scorsese film. OnMilwaukee.com got a chance to chat with Leavitt about the band's origins, its Milwaukee connection and getting the rare Scorsese Stamp of Approval.
Published Sept. 9, 2014
For fans of the late '90s, names like the Sugar Ray, "TRL," Surge and Chris Gaines will sound very familiar (OK, maybe not that last one). For local music fans around in the era, another name might sound a little familiar: The Buzzhorn.