Movie Review–Chasing Ice (2012)

Directed by Jeff Orlowski
1hr 15min
Rated PG-13 for brief language

Available on Netflix

James Balog installing a cliff camera at Columbia Glacier in Alaska.

James Balog installing a cliff camera at Columbia Glacier in Alaska.

Seven years ago the issue of global warming was reignited with the release of An Inconvenient Truth, which claimed to give the cold hard facts about climate change. After the initial hullabaloo over the film died down and some of the “cold hard facts” were debunked, we realized the film should have been titled An Incomplete Truth. Something was missing. Enter James Balog.

Balog started as a nature photographer for National Geographic and has been compared to Ansel Adams. This guy is very good at what he does. At some point in his work he noticed the changes that were taking place in the Arctic and decided to pursue the story. Originally a skeptic about global warming himself, he realized that people need hard evidence. “People need to be hit in the gut,” he says. He does that with his images, and director Jeff Orlowski does it with this film.

The film centers around Balog and a team of photographers, scientists, and cameramen that document the changing glaciers over a half decade or so. To do this they set up very advanced photographic equipment at over 20 locations in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and Montana. I cannot fully describe the images they capture, but I’ll tell you there is great power in watching an ice formation the size of Manhattan breaking off into the ocean and rolling around in the icy waters.

At one point Balog says, “The story is in the ice.” But there is more to this story, and it also lies in the title of the film. It’s really the chase that makes this so watchable and exciting. Balog is a man consumed with a vision. He reminds me a little bit of a younger Werner Herzog, who would take an idea and run with it, no matter the cost. In the span of this project Balog breaks down in tears, curses at his camera equipment, and undergoes three knee surgeries.

His obsession pays off. Watching this film I thought, “Wow, this is beautiful. But it hurts.” Balog echoes my sentiment by saying that as a photographer it is an exciting event to see, but as a citizen of the world it is horrible. This is the kind of film that people SHOULD be watching. It’s important but it’s entertaining too, and breathtakingly beautiful to look at. Most of us can’t go where these cameras did and see first hand what they saw, but Orlowski and Balog do a fantastic job of bringing it to us. This is what documentaries are all about–seeing an issue and bringing it to the world. Too few people read Nat Geo, and not many more are interested in documentaries, but I hope I can convince at least a few people to take 75 minutes and watch this wonderful piece of film.

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 11.01.58 PM copy 2
3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

Chasing Ice is available on Netflix. For titles with similar themes try “Ethos” on HuluPlus or NOVA Science Now episodes on Amazon Instant Video.


2 thoughts on “Movie Review–Chasing Ice (2012)


  2. Pingback: Best Under-the-radar Movies #6: Shun Li and the Poet |

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