14 December 2012 3:03 AM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

This climate-change documentary's approach is conventional, but the extraordinary images of crumbling icesheets speak volumes

Jeff Orlowski's documentary begins as a straightforward biographical profile, before shifting up into something more urgent, impassioned and compelling. Its subject, James Balog, is a photographer who goes to extremes to prove the existence of global warming: his latest expedition involves descending Arctic cliff faces to fit time-lapse cameras with which to monitor glacial erosion. Orlowski's framing – interspersing field footage with talking heads – is somewhat conventional, but the images he and Balog have collated are consistently breathtaking, and accumulate real power. The cameras look on in vain as massive icesheets shear off, leaving once-mighty glaciers – characterised in the manner of the endangered species in Attenborough documentaries – to slump into the sea. Behind them, they leave nothing – save colossal insurance premiums for those areas subsequently flooded by displaced waters.

If any film can convert the climate-change sceptics, »

- Mike McCahill

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