Anne Aghion's Ice People suffers from being released on the heels of Werner Herzog's lunatic Encounters at the End of the World, but to be fair, the two docs have nothing in common aside from the Antarctica setting: While Herzog set up base camp at McMurdo Station, Aghion squats with the scientists in the wilderness. These geologists are doing the patient work of digging through layers of ground for leaf imprints and anything else that might help determine Antarctica's natural history. The trouble is that—even at 77 minutes—there's no point. Is this a documentary about the people who choose to come here? Not really. (Aghion offers some background stories, but doesn't tell you anyone's names, perhaps trying to avoid making this a quirky human-interest piece, but really only succeeding in losing our interest.) Is it a tract about global warming? Not really, although the researchers admit to working on evidence to substantiate warming theories. Is it a documentary about geological work? More than anything, yes, but it's fair to say that the excitement the scientists bring to their jobs does not come across in the footage of digging and sifting. Small moments of beauty—a helicopter landing in a self-created snowstorm—don't compensate for the overall dullness.
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