James Balog: influential photographer, nature documentarian, and now environmental activist in Jeff Orlowski’s latest stirring documentary. This film brings to the fray the ever-ignored truth of climate change; it’s definitely happening, and it’s happening fast.
Balog has been shooting photos of wildlife for years, and has earned a plethora of prestigious awards for his work. Now, he turns his singular-minded vision to what must be the most pressing issue on the planet. The ice caps are melting, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Fighting back against criticism of the theory of global warming, Balog sets up dozens of cameras around Iceland, Greenland and Alaska – over a four-year period, they will record the recession of titanic glaciers. The results are terrifying.
Kicking things off with their campaign, arrestingly titled the Extreme Ice Project, Balog and his team go to work installing their massive operation in chilly parts around the globe. It could have been a rather routine exposition of their mission, but instead details all the pitfalls and small successes in their journey with an absorbing immediacy. The film thankfully doesn’t move at the same pace as its subjects.
It’s a deeply personal campaign for James Balog – there is a moment when a number of his prized cameras, which should have been shooting photos for an entire season, have failed to record properly. This shows how much the issue means to him, and anchors a movie which threatens to float off into statistics and nature documentary-level banter with a more human touch.
But by far the most impressive facet of this already engaging and involving documentary is the stuff no size film budget could ever replicate: the force of nature. Proving the point of global warming with footage that is the literal definition of ‘incredible’, we are witness to a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan breaking off the biggest glacier in the world, and sink under the waves in a crashing, rumbling cacophony of staggering power. This kind of stuff only happens in the movies.
With Balog as a figure of implacable conviction, the greatest gift Chasing Ice can give is perspective. True, horrifying, gigantic perspective. It gets across the fact that we need to do something about the state Earth is in. If all of us took even the slightest interest (or care) in our world, we won’t have to film big parts of it dying. Essential viewing.