Joshua Reviews Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Ice [Blu-ray Review]


Over the last decade or so, very few a topic has been as hot button an issue as that of climate change, a.k.a. global warming. With skeptics still claiming that the jury is still out on whether or not it is not only happening but that it is largely due to man’s incompetence and lack of respect for the world he inhabits, the world’s leading scientists are still trying to warn the planet’s population that yes, it is happening, and yes, it’s almost entirely our fault as to just how rapid a pace it is occurring.

And if the millions of documentaries that have arisen since Al Gore took to cinemas with his world-chanigng PowerPoint presentation An Inconvenient Truth haven’t been proof enough, one of this debate’s most important bits of filmic evidence is finally arriving on home video, ready to give naysayers a punch directly to their blindly doubtful solar plexes.

Entitled Chasing Ice, the Jeff Orlowski-directed film is led by legendary National Geographic photographer James Balog, who was not only once a skeptic of climate change, but through his Extreme Ice Survey, ultimately one of the leaders for that very concept. Catching the most awe-inspiring and jaw dropping time lapse photos one will ever see, Balog, and this very film, have become some of the most important and influential players in the debate to this very date.

With the debate still very much at its height, this film comes in like a kick square in the face of those who believe it is just a massive hoax, the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in history. Clocking in at roughly 80 minutes, the film is a wondrously paced documentary, giving us a blend of three wonderfully realized aspects.

First, the film doesn’t skimp on actual cold hard facts. While the talking head interviews with scientists and the stock footage of the actual debate (if a collection of nutcases proclaiming this all as “junk” science can be called that) are definitely the second or third focus here, what is portrayed is truly shocking. Never becoming a dense, Craig Ferguson-esque doorstop of a documentary, the film spreads its knowledge throughout rather superbly designed set pieces interspersed, while keeping the focus primarily on the man at the core of this discussion, and the disturbing yet utterly impossible to turn away from images.

And in those images comes the film’s crowning achievement. Leaving this writer with his jaw proverbially on the floor, this film uses the HD footage that is being captured to the utmost extent, showing us just how much damage, and how quickly, climate change is causing. With a final act that will absolutely floor any viewer, the film proves that while it is indeed a natural occurrence, the world warming, the rate at which it is currently going is disturbingly fast, and that it will leave our children and their children with a world on the brink.

Starting six years ago, Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey has taken on over three dozen time lapse cameras in Iceland, Montana, Alaska and Greenland, and the images captured here are revelatory. Capturing the retreat of various glaciers throughout the world, the film is, ostensibly, filmic evidence debunking any climate change doubt one could possibly have. With the film concluding on the retreat of a chunk of glacier the size of Manhattan and twice as thick as Manhattan’s buildings are tall, these images are some of the most thrilling, thought provoking, rapturous and truly stunning you’ll see on Blu-ray. A film birthed seemingly for HD and Blu-ray, the film is one that needs to be owned by any documentary fan, or at the very least by anyone with a Blu-ray player. This beautiful photography will have you re-thinking what documentary film can capture.

And yet, the film’s real entry point is Balog himself. With his own doubt coming into question by his viewing of these natural events, the experience will be impossible not to relate to for those who take the time to seek this film out, an impossibly haunting film about the dangers of what man has done to the world it inhabits. Balog himself went through proverbial hell to get these images as well, amping up the drama even further. Already having problematic knees given years of mountaineering, his legs are put through the ringer here, giving the film a human interest aspect that really ramps up the vitality of the picture.

Both a brazen meditation on the damage humans have done to the surrounding world, the film is part political statement and part human drama, that is entirely brilliant. One of the best documentaries from another golden year for the genre, 2012, this is one of the more important films of the past few years, and has been given an absolutely killer home video release via Cinedigm. A beautiful booklet is the first thing you’ll notice when opening this release, which features gorgeous photo after gorgeous photo, perfectly pairing with the gorgeous film it accompanies. There are a handful of features on the actual release, including a making of featurette looking at the time lapse videos, a making of the actual film, and various interviews from Sundance, a “science update,” and even a director’s commentary, all adding a great deal of depth to the making of the film, the science behind the film’s argument and those directly involved with it. Easily one of the better home video releases you’ll see this entire year, this is an absolute must own Blu-ray for anyone and everyone, politics be damned.