DVD Review - Chasing Ice

This documentary feels like director Jeff Orlowski's rebuttal to the maelstrom of global warming denials propagated by FOX News anchors like Sean Hannity. The problem is that this movie doesn't present anything or say anything factually or even emotionally that the Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth (2006) or even Disney's Earth (2007) didn't already do. The exception is that this movie has a money shot that the others lack. That money shot is the real-time capture of glacier calving, otherwise known as ice ablation.

Orlowski decides to follow James Balog, a photographer who has been working since the 1980s. He published several photography books. He's also contributed photos to Smithsonian magazine and National Geographic. His pictures focused mainly on humans and animals and the conflict or contradictions between the two. Around 2006, Balog got a new assignment from National Geographic to monitor several of the world's major glaciers over a period of time to see how they're being affected.

Balog's assignment starts in 2006 and doesn't end until 2009. The majority of this movie is watching Balog as he carries out this assignment. It's mostly a bunch of cameramen setting up cameras, checking on those cameras and repairing them. Balog's family, his wife and daughter comment on his absence because Balog has to travel for long stretches to the glaciers. Balog is closer to home when he goes to Glacier National Park in Montana, but he also has to go to the nether regions of Alaska, Greenland and Iceland.

Balog's family also comments on his passion and his work's importance, as Balog expresses frustration over the failing electronics that came with engineers who had to design and re-design the circuitry from scratch that controlled the cameras' time-lapse task. Balog even has his physical injuries. Trekking and hiking up mountains to get to glaciers acerbates the knee damage he's sustained over the years.

All of this is inconsequential to the pictures that Balog's cameras see. Over the years, Balog's cameras actually see the glaciers retreating or basically they witness these large masses of ice disappearing. The glaciers disappear due to melting or what scientists call ablation. Al Gore explained it better in his movie, but the melting occurs because the average atmospheric temperature is increasing, and the reason the temperature increases is because of the greenhouse gases.

Yes, the scientists talk about the danger of global warming and ablation to humans and animals, especially those who live in areas near the Chesapeake Bay, but it's not sold as well as in An Inconvenient Truth or Disney's Earth. Orlowski shows us interesting things like cryoconite holes, but the real money shot is the glacier calving.

Balog and his team weren't even expecting it, but they just happened to capture glacier calving in real time. Glacier calving is when huge chunks break from the main ice mass and are carried away by ocean currents. Glaciers melt naturally any way, but global warming speeds up the process of calving. Watching calving take place in front of your eyes is both beautiful and terrifying.

It would have been satisfying if Balog went on Hannity's show and presented his pictures and the video of the calving. It's one thing to have a believer see God. It's another thing to have an atheist see God.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 15 mins.


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