CHASING ICE (Jeff Orlowski). 74 minutes. Opens Friday (November 9). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
In Chasing Ice, a reporter aptly describes National Geographic photographer James Balog as a man who "lets his pictures do the talking."
Whether they're capturing monumental glaciers in a glowing night sky or ice blocks stranded on the shore like dead carcasses, Balog's photos are stunning, haunting and rife with an urgent message about climate change. If only Jeff Orlowski's documentary had just let those pictures do the talking.
Balog and crew hazard unstable terrain in the Arctic to mount 25 cameras near eroding glaciers; they're rigged to shoot one frame every hour for a few years. After they're set, the film twiddles its thumbs waiting for the results, filling the time with asides. It's like being on a stakeout with a partner who won't shut up despite having little to say.
In a desperate attempt to stretch his doc to feature length, Orlowski explores Balog's personal life - a routine avenue when you're looking for filler. Unfortunately, the man is not as compelling as his work. Interviews with Balog's family, crew and admirers all pretty much repeat the same standard-issue comments about the impending climate crisis and the photographer's commitment to the cause.
When the photographic results do arrive, those images of Manhattan-sized glaciers folding over are not just breathtaking but desperately deserving of our attention.