Tribeca Review: “Into the Cold”

The documentary “Into The Cold” has traveled quite a long way to get to the Tribeca Film Festival. It began in Los Angeles, the home of writer, director and star Sebastian Copeland, and made its way to New York City by way of the North Pole.

Copeland, fascinated by the epic journeys of the history’s great explorers, took on a challenge few have accomplished. To commemorate the centennial of Robert Peary and Matthew Henson becoming in 1909 the first men to reach the North Pole, he undertook his own journey to the top of the world, filming the process.

Further inspiring Copeland was his belief that Polar Ice Caps of the North are, “The ground zero of climate change.” Several hundred-thousand square miles of Arctic ice, approximately the size of Texas and California combined, have been lost in the past several years and Copeland won't take it sitting down.

A renowned professional photographer, Copeland armed himself with a camera to document his odyssey. With his stunning photography he hopes to bring awareness to the masses by capturing the damage occurring in the arctic north, while also making them “fall in love” with the wonders of the natural world.

“Into The Cold” pulls the viewer in during the extensive training and preparation Copeland and his expedition partner, Keith Heger, endure for their trip. From hiking hills with 100-pound backpacks, to jumping into freezing water in the middle of a Minnesota winter, they prime themselves thoroughly for their venture.

As far as material preparation goes, everything must be meticulously calculated in precise detail. The several hundred pounds weight they will drag in their equipment sleds can differentiate life or death depending on how it is rationed. It’s an interesting and precarious balance of needing a massive caloric intake to make the journey, but with additional weight they carry, the more calories they need to consume to transport it. It’s a like a giant jigsaw puzzle for survival as we watch Copeland and Heger lay out and choose only the most essential supplies -- and an iPod.

Their 400-mile journey on foot is a treacherous and amazing feat that must be seen to be appreciated, and stellar camerawork shows the terrain to be surprisingly beautiful and unbelievably harsh. With temperatures hovering around 40-degrees below zero, it’s clear humans were not meant to tread here. All the more harrowing are the freezing waters between gaps in the ice they must carefully cross.

While “Into the Cold” is gripping documentary filmmaking, the incongruous music choices -- “World Music” to knock-off Sarah McLaughlin and U2-type songs -- seem very out of place, to the point of distraction. They do not, however, sink the film and the purpose of Copeland’s trek; at this rate of climate change there may not be a bicentennial commemoration of the first reach to the North Pole.

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