Movie Review - Chasing Coral

You could say this documentary is a spin-off of the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth (2006). There was a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth this year, which does a better job of explaining the impact on humans, but this movie is in reality a continuation of the Oscar-nominated film Chasing Ice (2012). Both aforementioned movies are about climate change, or what's commonly known as global warming. Climate change is the result of human industries burning fossil fuels and releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases that absorb and emit solar energy. The aforementioned movies, as well as other nature documentaries have focused on the effects of climate change in the atmosphere or things on land or above sea-level, things that are more easily measured or observed. This movie focuses on the effects of climate change below sea-level or on things in the oceans themselves. Collapsing glaciers were the most dramatic things in An Inconvenient Truth and Chasing Ice. Here, the most dramatic thing is the disappearance of coral reefs, and this movie is about the people trying to document the disappearance of those reefs.

Directed by Jeff Orlowski, the movie starts with a scuba-diver following a turtle and exploring the world under water, especially the world around coral reefs. It's first described as an alien world, but anyone who has seen Finding Nemo (2003), which is probably a lot, wouldn't consider a coral reef to be a totally alien world. That Pixar film doesn't really delve into the science of what a coral reef is, but this movie does. What people might most be surprised by is that coral is both plant and animal, but coral reefs are comparable to tropical rainforests. The difference is the loss of rainforests contribute to global warming, whereas the loss of coral reefs is the result of global warming.

The disappearance or death of the coral reefs is explained and we see the horrendous effects. However, seeing those effects don't happen until the end of the movie. This movie itself is about capturing those effects on camera. Orlowski's movie follows the group of guys, as they select where they want to go, grab their cameras, strap on the scuba gear and go diving into the oceans.

Richard Vevers is the man who kicks off the whole adventure. He runs the XL Catlin Survey. It's a company that wants to take 360-degree pictures of coral reefs for the Internet. He says he wants to do for the oceans what Google Maps did for city streets. Vevers worked in advertising in London for ten years. He intends to use the skills he had there and apply them to getting the word out about the effects of global warming on marine life.

He talks to biologists and employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, and they identify the collapse of coral reefs due to a process called bleaching. They've isolated that the cause of the bleaching is from global warming. They've noticed increased bleaching at unnatural rates over the past 20 and 30 years. All of this must be documented for people to see.

Jack Rago is an engineer with View Into the Blue, a company that is hired to design the cameras that will be used here. The cameras have to be able to go under-water and withstood deep depths and oceanic storms for months at a time, while doing time-lapse photography. Of all the people involved, Rago is the one we empathize and sympathize with. We watch as his passion for coral be deflated as he sees the horrendous effects right before his eyes.

Rated TV-PG.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.

Available on Netflix.

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