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One Picture

Movie Review
A Chilling Tale
A new major motion picture offers a captivating glimpse into the frozen wilderness of the Great North.

Courtesy of National Geographic Films
Photo by:  Paul Nicklen
© 2007 by PARAMOUNT VANTAGE CLASSICS, a Division of PARAMOUNT PICTURES.  All Rights Reserved.

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In the tradition of films like Winged Migration and March of the Penguins, Paramount Classics' and National Geographic Films’ Arctic Tale uses dramatic real-life animal footage to reveal a breathtaking world of turquoise ice and frigid water that few humans visit: the Arctic.

Queen Latifah, the narrator, welcomes viewers to this “paradise on earth.” The real stars of the film, however, are a polar bear the film calls Nanu and a walrus, Seela. The central plot follows their parallel—and sometimes interconnected—lives over several years, from infancy to motherhood. They are “children of the Arctic, their lives cradled by the ice around them,” says Latifah, “But their world is changing.”

Children and adults alike will delight in the film’s light moments. Adorable polar bear cubs tumbling down a snowy ridge, for example, are enough to win over the most hard-shelled curmudgeon, and a belching, flatulent chorus of walruses digesting a three-day clam feast will likely provoke some giggles. The film’s more sobering episodes are just as riveting. Arctic Tale unflinchingly portrays the struggle that even well adapted animals go through to survive in the extreme, unforgiving environment. For example, while polar bear cubs weakened by hunger trek through a blizzard to find food, walruses try to protect their young from becoming food.
Throughout, the film also reminds viewers that global warming threatens this remarkable ecosystem’s future. For instance, a polar bear tiptoeing over slushy terrain that was once thick sea ice illustrates how warmer seasons have started rendering the bear’s hunting techniques obsolete by shortening their hunting seasons and changing prey behavior.

This film, worthy of three and a half stars for its remarkable photography and storytelling, is missing only a mention of potential solutions for preserving this ecosystem. It ends with a note of forewarning: the survival of these “children of the Arctic” is inextricably linked to a “blanket of cold that keeps this kingdom theirs”—thus leaving viewers to ponder, as Queen Latifah does, “What will their children do if it disappears? What will ours?”


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