Chasing Ice is a documentary with a weighty subject but is mighty light on being particularly memorable. Addressing the climate change debate through a thoroughly pleasant conservationist/photographer, James Balog, who is clearly passionate but comes across a bit flat amidst a rather mundane presentation, save for few brief glimpses of concerned humanity and pretty natural imagery.
Here the film makers align their focus with a very straight style, with varied results, often neutering the couple of scenes that actually contain a touch of emotion or jeopardy, but on the other hand when bringing forth statistics and science it’s softer and less complex handling serves well for people less versed in the issue of global warming. As someone who is indifferent to the point of ignorance on the matter I was able to learn a few words (that I instantly forgot) and came to a sort of conclusion that it may be a more pressing problem than some people want to admit. It’s an admirable film (and Balog’s project is certainly), especially in its refusal to use panic or shock and awe tactics, although refusal may be the wrong word to use as I suspect the use of momentous excitement wasn’t an option due to making a film about vast ice landscapes. Geology and weather don’t lend themselves to fast pacing so neither does this film, fitting but sometimes dull. After all factual or not when there is an audience to entertain I feel a film should still strive to do so.
The ice footage (video and still) is stunning and thankfully plentiful! Frankly I could’ve just watched the runtime’s worth of glaciers separating (or ‘calving’), aided by the foreboding thunder of giant ice on temperamental waters which is wondrous and largely worth sitting through the film’s entirety for. Aside from mesmerising visuals the film ultimately fails to ignite much passion (unless you yourself share said environmental concerns, which I’m aware masses do but likely not everyone entering a cinema), its whole approach being a touch too on the delicate and ultimately middle of the road side. It’s the sort of film that in passing on TV would catch my eye but unlikely hold my interest till the end, or would have me better engrossed had it been shown to my in school science class for its friendly characters and non-patronising providing of information. Chasing Ice is good for those wanting a soft entry into the climate change discussion, fans of easy on the eye wintery locales and people who feel the need to tick off certain genres of documentary from their watch-lists. There are far worst ways to kill an hour and 15minutes but there are also far more entertaining ways to.
SUNDANCE LONDON 2012