Movie Review: “Chasing Ice” – An Icebreaker For Skeptics

Written by Matthew da Silva December 13, 2012

The holiday season is once again upon us, marking the time of year where we frantically search for gifts, get hopped up on caffeine and cram for exams, all the while battling the…harsh Canadian winter? If you are in the London area, the 2012 holiday season is once again void of that cold, fluffy white powder falling from the skies that created a plethora of snow days for kids in elementary school, and Mother Nature has opted for a chilly, dreadful rain instead to plague us while we run our daily errands. If you are missing the presence Jack Frost’s main ingredient, “Chasing Ice” offers some stunning shots of the wintry white, while explaining why its presence may be lacking in recent years.


“Chasing Ice” follows James Balog, a former global-warming skeptic who sets out to capture images of rapidly receding glacier fields across the world. Balog’s photography sets out to show the connection between “humanity and nature”, with previous projects focusing on hunting and endangered species, appearing in wide scale environmental publications like National Geographic. With the continued debate of the validity of global warming, Balog scraps the dense scientific analysis and overriding guilt of previous efforts by simply showing us what is happening to our unstable environment through his images of ice.

To do so, Balog established the Extreme Ice Survey in 2007, assembling a team to set up and maintain over thirty high-tech cameras to take time-lapse shots in often remote, glacial areas of Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and Montana. “Chasing Ice” details the trials and tribulations of this effort, where harsh weather conditions and curious creatures created setbacks throughout the project, setbacks that were never enough to wane the perseverance of Balog.

Nerves Of Frozen Steel

“Chasing Ice” plays out as an adventure piece rather than a scientific documentary, with director Jeff Orlowski capturing every daring stunt and emotion throughout the journey. We are with Balog while he gets emotional over the failure of his cameras after the first trial and with him when he goes in for his fourth knee surgery after hiking through the grueling terrain. We are with his team while they hover over a gaping abyss in the ice, and share their stunted excitement while they capture the largest-scale glacier break caught on camera.

Balog and his team persevered through sleet and snow to capture the brilliant images displayed on screen, and Orlowski constantly reminds us of the struggle and strain that the team went through to capture the monumental impacts of global warming.

No More Preachin’

Rather than preach to the audience, Balog lets his stark, unfiltered images speak for themselves. Balog realizes that discussions of global warming are often too focused on statistics, and so he opts to depict the effects of global warming with physical evidence rather than list off numerical values of the increasing CO2  count and the components of our ever growing carbon footprint.

In doing so, Balog never instills guilt in the audience, and instead he turns on the media in their mislead portrayal of the global warming debate as quarrelling scientists who can’t make up their mind. Balog’s blunt images display both the beauty in these wondrous natural formations, and the horror in their rapid, human-fuelled decay, a depiction that calls for an end to the denial of global warming and its labelling as a hoax.

Let’s Hear From The Skeptics

Even with all these mile-long glacier fields retreating at exponential rates, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of that harsh Canadian winter. Even if it happens to snow a meter tomorrow, Balog sets out to distinguish that global warming is not a hoax, as evidenced in the images of thousand-year-old glacier fields that are melting away with each passing day. Skeptics take note, unless you are waiting for a Canadian winter full of heat waves to sway your opinion.

My Rating: 8/10

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