A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Antarctica: Ice and Sky," a documentary about the scientist whose research first called attention to anthropogenic climate change, ends with the sort of vague call to action that such works typically do. It's a simple question: "What are you going to do?" The challenge comes across as particularly hollow (perhaps even more so than, say, a plea to visit a website or send a text message, although not as pandering as those calls to action, which are meant to make a concerned viewer feel as if they have done something without doing anything of real impact). That is mostly because director Luc Jacquet has not made a work of direct activism. The last-minute attempt to turn the film into one is never earned.
The final question is a momentary misstep in a film that serves—perhaps unintentionally—as a subtle, almost subversive counterargument to those who would either deny the existence of human-made climate change or dismiss the evidence as some mild deviation from or normal part of the natural climate cycle. The arguments of such people usually rest on the notion that the science is somehow faulty, that the scientists are simply in it for the money, or some other contention that calls into question the processes or integrity of the people who have done or studied the research.
Jacquet's film assembles decades of footage—from the mid-1950s to the 1980s—of scientists doing that research in the sub-zero temperatures of Antarctica. Seeing the work being done—as well as the conditions and dangers that went along with it—just about negates such arguments. These scientists whom we see throughout the film are not in it for fame or glory or money. Their research comes at great personal risk to life and limb, and the results are far too alarming for any of these men to have desired them in any way.
The central figure of the film is French glaciologist Claude Lorius, who has participated in 20 expeditions to the continent over the course of his life. He describes (through the voice of Michel Papineschi) the strange, unexpected course of career, as he essentially entered his field of study by accident and became one of its most esteemed forefathers.