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Sunday, October 20, 2013

'Chasing Ice' BD: A Breath-Taking Way to Present an Inconvenient Truth

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The indescribably incredible quality of the cinematography, which Blu-ray enhances just as incredibly, of the documentary "Chasing Ice" and the importance of the film's undeniable proof of the existence of climate change make it excruciating  to write anything negative about the movie.

Guilt regarding an inability to write a 100 percent positive review is part of the motive for providing this link to the non-profit Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), which is conducting the research around which "Chasing Ice" is centered.

The primary theme of "Chasing Ice" relates to environmental photographer James Balog and his team traveling to remote locations to install a large network of still cameras to each take 1,000s of photographs of glaciers over several separate six-month periods and return to retrieve those images at the end of the period. The purpose of that effort is to document the rate at which the glaciers are melting to support the campaign to convince people who are skeptical about climate change's existence that that is occurring.

The intensely sharp visuals of the glaciers, which an Oscar-nominated soundtrack accompanies, are arguably some of the best images ever captured. This same quality earned the film the "Excellence in Cinematography Award" at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

More specifically, the blue tint of the Alaska glaciers make anyone who has seen them want to book passage on the next cruise to our 49th state.

The images of the glaciers crashing into the sea in a process known as calving is equally captivating, and the contrast between the bright yellows and reds of the outerwear of the EIS team and the glaciers is visually stunning.

It is also interesting to learn of the EIS project's evolution and the innovations that it requires. Additionally, the audience truly feels the pain of the EIS team regarding a major setback near the beginning of the project.

The negative element of the film that is too pervasive to ignore relates to the inappropriately lavish praise that it heaps on Balog; the facts that back-cover art of the Blu-ray set refers to him as "acclaimed environmental photographer" and that the opening moments of "Chasing Ice" include several images of magazine covers of non-glacier photographs that Balog has taken reinforces this perception.

Balog deserves appropriate credit for thinking up the very ambitious large-scale time-lapse photography project and for making it a reality. Further, that effort is worthy of a separate documentary. However, the underlying documentation of that research deserves most of the spotlight that the segments that place the man behind the camera in front of the camera steals.

Including most of the footage that centers on Balog in the extra "Making Chasing Ice" that the plethora of special features in the Blu-ray set includes would have been more appropriate than placing it in the film itself. Additionally, many of Balog's comments create the impressions that he can single-handed bring skeptics over to the environmentalists' side and that he is the only researcher who has thought up and documented the connection between the rate at which glaciers melt and climate change.

The set also has an awesome booklet with pages and pages of crystal-clear still photos of the glaciers and the EIS team.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Chasing Ice" expertly demonstrates the contrasts that this review conveys.
The bottom line is that "Chasing Ice" is so beautifully filmed that letting it run silently during a party would enhance the mood of the event; the good narrative simply would have been better if Balog had not broken the cardinal rule in journalism of not having the reporter be the story.

Anyone with questions or CIVIL comments regarding "Chasing Ice" is welcome to email me. You can also follow me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.