The central premise, intoned by Craig's authoritative and sometimes witty narration, is that all life is connected by its need to eat and procreate. So we watch an astonishing collection of creatures all over the world doing just that, often in unexpected ways that are not only astonishing on their own but captured by the skilled cinematographers in such a way that each segment almost seems staged for the cameras. And virtually every scene makes us gasp.
In the rainforest we follow silverback gorillas in Congo, Brazilian capuchins smashing palm nuts and Jesus Christ lizards walking on water. Up in trees there are Chilean stag beetles fighting off fellow suitors and tiny red frogs caring for their tadpoles. In the sea, dolphins work out a playfully clever way to catch fish, a mother octopus gives her life for her children, and the humpback whale indulges in complex mating games. In the sky, lammergeier vultures in Ethiopia work out a way to crack open bones. And on the land we watch snow monkeys jostling for position in Japanese hot pools, komodo dragons stalking a buffalo, cheetahs hunting ostrich and a fox stalking a cliff-dwelling ibex.
There's a lot more than this, and it's assembled with fluid editing that maintains a brisk pace as well as an openly emotional tone, thanks to George Fenton's surging score. To make sure we see every detail, much of the footage is shown in super slow-motion. And there's also a lot of time-lapse photography, which is perhaps not necessary but is pleasingly eye-catching.
It's the pureness of the images that makes this film so impressive, as we continually wonder how much time and effort went into capturing each of these scenarios. And the animal's eye viewpoint makes an Argentine leafcutter ant appear the same size as a Kenyan elephant. Watching these hunters and escape artists is genuinely thrilling, as is seeing these creatures' brainy inventiveness in the midst of nature's stunning diversity. This is a rare chance to see footage like this on a big screen, so don't wait for the video.
Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 21st February 2013
Distributed by: Screen Vision
Production compaines: BBC Earth
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Michael Gunton, Martha Holmes
Producer: Martin Pope, Michael Rose
Screenwriter: Michael Gunton, Martha Holmes
Starring: Daniel Craig as Narrator (voice)
Also starring: Martin Pope