If this year's presidential election was, as even "Doonesbury" has said, a victory for the reality-based world, then it appears America is ready to watch the documentary "Chasing Ice" with clear eyes.
Director/cinematographer Jeff Orlowski, who won the award for cinematography at this year's Sundance Film Festival, captures amazing images of glaciers in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska. He does so while following James Balog, the National Geographic photographer who has made it his job since 2005 to capture inarguable proof that glaciers are receding as a result of global climate change.
How Balog and his crew of the Extreme Ice Survey do this is by mounting stationary cameras to shoot time-lapse footage of the glaciers. This is a simple idea in theory, but Orlowski shows how fiendishly difficult it is in execution because of the technological challenges of programming cameras, then making sure their protective housing doesn't ice up or get knocked over.
But the footage is worth it. The time-lapse scenes, compressing years of melting into seconds, are jaw-dropping. The footage does in seconds what all the environmentalists' talk has failed to do for the past few decades: Put the undeniable science of global climate change in an unambiguous presentation.
Sometimes, it doesn't take years to make the case. In one harrowing scene, an EIS crew captures the rolling, rumbling destruction of a massive ice sheet in real time, and the thundering upheaval is bigger than anything you'll see in a Hollywood action movie.
Balog makes a fascinating character, too, and Orlowski smartly puts the focus on him as much as on the work. Balog has the heart of an explorer, carrying on even when his knees give out (he's had four surgeries on them) by going to the glaciers on crutches.
"Chasing Ice" is that movie that every environmentally conscious person has been waiting for, if only to show their right-wing relatives who parrot the standard oil-industry-funded line that "the science is still uncertain." There's nothing uncertain about the science, or these images, or Balog's determination to make the world see them.
This engrossing documentary follows a photographer as he captures amazing time-lapse images of receding glaciers.
Where • Century 16 (South Salt Lake); Megaplex 20 at The District (South Jordan); Megaplex 17 at Thanksgiving Point (Lehi).
When • Opens Friday, Nov. 30.
Rating • PG-13 for brief strong language.
Running time • 76 minutes.