×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Ice on Fire’

Leila Conners’ follow-up to “The 11th Hour” continues to spread the alarm about climate change but this time offers concrete solutions.

Director:
Leila Conners
With:
Leonardo DiCaprio (narrator), Jennifer Frances Morse, Patricia Lang, Pieter Tans
Release Date:
Jun 11, 2019

Official Site: https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/ice-on-fire

Twelve years ago, Leonardo DiCaprio teamed up with Leila Conners to blast an environmental wake-up call to the world with “The 11th Hour,” warning of the dire consequences of unchecked climate change. More than a decade later, the political leaders most able to do something continue to ignore the issue, but while the cataclysmic effects of global warming become ever clearer, scientists and significant swathes of the public are trying to make a difference. That’s the focus of “Ice on Fire,” a deeply conventional though attractive documentary designed to reinforce just how bad things are getting while offering hope by concentrating on realistic proposals that can reign in climate change and even reverse its effects. Premiering at Cannes in advance of its June 11 launch on HBO, the film will likely garner a decent viewership via the network’s streaming platforms.

Where “The 11th Hour” sought to frighten audiences into action by showing the consequences of doing nothing, “Ice on Fire” takes a different tack, relying heavily on predictably beautiful drone shots of pristine landscapes to remind us what we have to lose, interspersed with scientists and activists talking about what can be done to preserve our planet. Occasionally DiCaprio’s voice is heard reinforcing points in the manner of a sententious schoolmaster lecturing children, but fortunately these interjections are sporadic, notwithstanding the obvious importance of a Leonardine presence to boost interest. Overall the documentary is rather too predictably structured, raising the alarm, then offering a solution, and then repeating the formula, though Conners and the producers make the correct calculation that dire warnings without a corrective course of action lead to hopelessness rather than vital social and political engagement.

Naturally the movie is aware of climate change deniers with their disturbing agendas, and while the filmmakers avoid too much anti-Trumpian commentary, their privileging of science, via “impartial experts” freezes out any misguided uncertainty. From the Rocky Mountains to the Arctic ice sheets, from the Costa Rican rainforests to the windswept Orkney Islands, the emphasis is first on data collection, baldly presenting the facts of carbon and methane accumulation in the environment and their mind-boggling toxicity. The solution is a two-pronged approach, consisting of switching to renewable energy combined with “drawdown,” the act of pulling carbon out of the environment.

Scientists and entrepreneurs discuss wind turbines, solar farms and tidal energy while others explain the process of carbon sequestration and its potential for creating far more jobs than the fossil fuel industry, including urban farming as well as the heightened cultivation of “restorative species” like oysters and especially seaweed and kelp. Time after time, experts talk of achievable goals, emphasizing that capitalism is not anathema to environmental action since going green will be ever more profitable. There’s only one massive problem for which the documentary doesn’t suggest a comprehensive solution, and that’s stored methane, acknowledged as posing an even more drastic risk of accelerated climate disruption. But the implication is that the cascading benefits of all these methods will do the trick if we act now: “Is it game over or game on?” queries DiCaprio in one of the more simplistic lines.

“Ice on Fire” looks exactly as expected, full of grandiose drone shots of some of the globe’s most vulnerable spots — DP (and co-producer) Harun Mehmedinovic previously worked on “BBC Earth” and was clearly influenced by the groundbreaking series. Though operating with an eye for large-scale images, the producers were surely cognizant that most audiences are accustomed to watching this sort of footage on home screens of varying sizes.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Ice on Fire'

Reviewed at the Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings), May 24, 2019. Running time: 98 MIN.

Production: (Documentary) An HBO Documentary Films presentation of a Tree Media, Appian Way production. Producers: Leonardo DiCaprio, Leila Conners. Executive producers: George DiCaprio, Roee Sharon Peled, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, Jennifer Davisson. Co-executive producer: Philip Watson. Co-producer: Harun Mehmedinovic.

Crew: Director, writer: Leila Conners. Camera (color): Harun Mehmedinovic. Editor: Conners. Music: Jeremy Soule, Jonah Johnson.

With: Leonardo DiCaprio (narrator), Jennifer Frances Morse, Patricia Lang, Pieter Tans, Thom Hartmann, Michael Mann, Jim White, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Catherine Lund Myhre, Peter Wadhams, Elizabeth Brown, Tony Gossner, Mark Basque, Daniel Rothman, Janine Benyus, Ottmar Edenhofer, Brigitte Knopf, Paul Hawken, Linwood Gill, Raymond Baltar, Kate Scow, Ietef Vita, Bren Smith, Staša Puškarić, Martin Hermann, Gabrielle Petron, Anna Robertson, Don Schreiber, Jürgen Mienert, Pavel Serov, Katey Walter Anthony, Christof Gebald, Jan Wurzbacher, Daniel Nocera, James Murray, Chris Milne, Neil Kermode.

More Film

  • 'Talking About Trees' Helmer Suhaib Gasmelbari

    'Talking About Trees' Director Suhaib Gasmelbari Receives Variety MENA Award

    Suhaib Gasmelbari, whose Sudanese documentary “Talking About Trees” premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama section, received the Variety Middle East and North Africa Region Talent Award Saturday at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt from festival director Intishal Al Timimi. Variety critic Jay Weissberg, who selected the honoree, said that it is not usual that [...]

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content