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Documentary showing the impact of climate change on the world's ice caps. The film follows National Geographic photojournalist James Balog, a former skeptic about climate change, as he uses time-lapse cameras to capture a record of the world's changing ice landscapes over a period of several years. Making his expedition by helicopter, canoe and dog sled across three continents, Balog gathers his seemingly irrefutable evidence of the melting ice caps in an attempt to convince those who continue to deny the effects of climate change.
For more about Chasing Ice and the Chasing Ice Blu-ray release, see Chasing Ice Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Adam LeWinter
Director: Jeff Orlowski
» See full cast & crew
Chasing Ice Blu-ray Review
Help us, we're melting.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 10, 2013
There is certainly no dearth of opinions on the subject of climate change or global warming or whatever you want to call it. Few subjects seem to get people's dander up quite so completely as this touchy topic, one which doesn't just play upon our darkest fears of our personal mortality, but one which extends to the survival of the entire human race and perhaps our very planet. Believers in the findings of many climate scientists tend to be at the very least incredibly concerned, and in some cases at least downright alarmist, tending to frame their arguments with notions indicating willful ignorance or simple blindness on the part of disbelievers. Those who tend to be skeptical about any warming trend point to previous scientific claims of a new ice age which never materialized, as well as some supposedly duplicitous techniques by some scientists. This is one of those debates where one side is going to be right and one side is going to be wrong, although if the global warming adherents turn out to be the correct ones, it may be too late by then for anyone to have time to gloat. Chasing Ice is resolutely "pro" global warming, if that's the right way to term it, meaning that the people behind the documentary are absolutely convinced that global warming is real, the evidence is unmistakable and people need to perk up and pay attention, rather than merely giving the problem lip service. Those with a tendency not to believe in climate change may still find some of the documentary evidence on display in Chasing Ice as at the very least disturbing, if not "direct evidence" that man made greenhouse gases are depleting ice fields in heretofore unknown quantities. Those who do believe in climate change will find Chasing Ice a devastatingly sad and unsettling film, one which offers persuasive proof that something deadly is happening to our planet, and leaving the distinct possibility that we may be too late to stave off some of the worst effects.
James Balog is the focal human at the center of Chasing Ice. This increasingly legendary nature photographer talks about his early efforts in the genre, where he quickly discovered that his disturbing photos of endangered species being killed, maimed or harvested for pieces of their bodies didn't exactly meet with public acclaim, despite the worthiness of the subject. His intent has always been to show the interrelationship of Man and Nature, and when he finally decided to start examining our planet's shrinking ice field, he felt he had hit upon an idea that would be both scenic and disturbing.
Balog's peculiar genius was to help found and implement what is known as the Extreme Ice Survey, or EIS for short. Balog set about installing time lapse cameras which finally were able to document the incredibly shocking retreat of some of the world's largest glaciers. Chasing Ice's Jeff Orlowski evidently didn't originally have an idea to make a feature documentary out of this enterprise, and instead was along for the ride, but along with Balog and the rest of the EIS's crew slowly came to realize that this was a story that needed the widest exposure possible.
What Chasing Ice ends up being, therefore, is both an environmental wake up call but perhaps just as compellingly a document of a devoted group's heroic efforts to overcome extreme environments and logistical nightmares in order to make the ice survey a reality. The result is a combination of thrilling location photography, including some devastating "calving events" (when huge pieces of glaciers or ice floes break off and being melting into the sea), as well the hardships faced by Balog and his crew, both technical (the early cameras don't work as promised) and personal (Balog has some health issues as the survey proceeds).
My hunch is that Chasing Ice will probably not sway those who are firmly in the "non-believer" camp when it comes to global warming, but I also have a strong hunch that even those folks may be momentarily distressed by some of the "calving events" and stunning disappearances of glaciers which Chasing Ice documents. The ironic thing about this fascinating piece is that it is both lyrically beautiful and awesomely overwhelming, showing huge movements in Nature which hopefully don't necessarily portend absolute calamity for our species and in fact the entire planet.
Chasing Ice Blu-ray, Video Quality
Chasing Ice is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Cinedigm and Docurama Films with an AVC encoded 1080i transfer in 1.78:1. Chasing Ice, while incredibly disturbing due to its depiction of "calving events" and other phenomena tied to climate change, is nonetheless a staggeringly beautiful film, one that pops rather well—if not quite as well as might be hoped—on Blu-ray. This high definition presentation boasts excellent contrast, which keeps the often white encrusted shots from devolving into a mass of nothingness. However, the interlaced presentation does present some noticeable combing artifacts, and there does appear to have been some digital sharpening done to this release, perhaps due to the variety of source elements utilized. The result, however, is quite apparent ringing on display throughout this presentation. These are relatively minor distractions, however, and in fact may only be noticed by the most eagle eyed. While some of the lower-res source elements are of course soft and ragged looking, quite a bit of Chasing Ice offers sharp and well detailed imagery, including some spectacularly effective shots of glaciers and ice floes.
Chasing Ice Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Chasing Ice features two DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, a 2.0 and a 5.1. Documentaries like this one may not seem to offer much in the way of surround opportunity, but Chasing Ice proves to be a notable exception, one not limited only to its Oscar nominated song "Before My Time". The surround mix has some really great ambient environmental noise which is thrillingly immersive, and which also has several bursts of LFE courtesy of the "calving events". While the voice over and talking heads segments are of course anchored front and center, the 5.1 mix actually offers a substantially opened up account of the soundtrack. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is very wide.
Chasing Ice Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Special Edition Blu-ray comes housed in a slipcase and includes a tri-fold case holding the Blu-ray as well as a nicely illustrated booklet which also contains essays by James Balog, director Jeff Orlowski and producers Paula Du Pré Pesman and Jerry Aronson. The on disc supplements include:
Chasing Ice Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's a fantastic song by the Brazilian singer-songwriter Ivan Lins called "Some Morning" which has a superb verse that reads in part:
At the table, there are childrenI have a somewhat less sanguine disposition than Ivan, and therefore a recurring dream I've had for the past few years has been a disturbing, albeit quite cinematic, scene where I see an urban wasteland overrun with tumbleweeds and dead vegetation, with not a living soul to be found, through which blows a crumpled piece of newspaper. I bend down and see that it's a back page of some daily rag containing a smallish article detailing fears of catastrophe due to climate change. This may only be the atavistic rumblings of a disturbed, overly sensitive, subconscious, one which obviously is concerned we're ignoring signs of an impending catastrophe, but when I see a film like Chasing Ice, it at least confirms the fact that this growing unease many of us feel may be anchored in undeniable and verifiable data. Highly recommended.
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