Run time: 75 mins
In Theaters: Friday 14th December 2012
Box Office USA: $1.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $1.3M
Distributed by: National Geographic
Production compaines: Diamond Docs, Exposure
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 64 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Jeff Orlowski
Producer: Mark Monroe
Screenwriter: Jerry Aronson, Paula DuPre Pesmen, Jeff Orlowski
Starring: James Balog as Himself - Photographer, Svavar Jonatansson as Himself - Photo Assistant, Adam LeWinter as Himself - EIS Engineer (as Adam Lewinter), Louie Psihoyos as Himself - Photographer & Oscar Winning Filmmaker, Kitty Boone as Herself - The Aspen Institute, Sylvia Earle as Herself - National Geographic Explorer (as Sylvia Earle Ph.D.), Dennis Dimick as Himself - National Geographic Editor, Jason Box as Himself - Climatologist, Ohio State University (as Jason Box Ph.D.), Tad Pfeffer as Himself - Glaciologist, University of Colorado (as Tad Pfeffer Ph.D.), Suzanne Balog as Herself - James's Wife, Jeff Orlowski as Himself - EIS Videographer
Even though this documentary is packed with some of the most spectacular scenes you've ever seen on film, it's also rather depressing. Not only do these magnificent images reveal the truth about global warming, but they tell us that we're too late to stop the rising sea levels. But it's not all doom and gloom, as there are still ways humanity can survive the coming changes.
Scientist James Balog runs a global project studying the sizes of glaciers, and with his video monitoring systems he can see that they are shrinking at a hugely accelerated rate. By analysing the ice he can see that the melting grew exponentially during the industrial revolution, when we started burning fossil fuels. And he also notes that we are now past the tipping point: no matter what we do, the glaciers will melt and the seas will rise, drastically changing the planet. In other words, anyone who says that humans didn't cause global warming is lying to you.
While centring on the likeable Balog and his energetic team, the film takes us with them to Iceland, Greenland and Alaska, letting us watch their staggeringly beautiful time-lapse sequences of ice melting. In one case, a shelf collapses that's the size of Lower Manhattan. Not only is this kind of scene picturesque and dramatic, but the scale of the event helps us understand what's actually going on out there, despite deliberately misleading information from global news sources (Fox News is the most pernicious offender in this sense).
Along the way, we get to know Balog and his colleagues, which makes the film feel personal rather than scientific. This also adds to the suspense when one of them decides to do something crazy, like abseil into a bottomless ice-melt. And by putting a human angle on the story, we vividly see that it's human activity that has caused this problem, which will have a massive impact on future generations. And while this vital, important film never hints that this is reversible, it does offer hope that humanity has the tools to survive these changes. As long as we stop pretending that they're not happening.