Sebastian Copeland's Into The Cold (2010, subtitled A Journey of the Soul) documents his trek to the North Pole with fellow explorer Keith Heger. Their sub-zero trip is one that less than 150 people have accomplished in the last century, but are they just doing it for their names in the history books? Not entirely. Copeland is a photographer, author, filmmaker and environmental advocate, so one goal of this documentary is to raise (or at least maintain) public awareness of climate change and its effects on the polar ice caps. Copeland serves as our guide through this Arctic expedition, making observations about the landscape and why they just might be the last souls to reach the North Pole in its present form.
Even without the visuals to back it up, Copeland and Heger's journey sounds impressive enough on paper. They spend over a month on their 400-mile trek, pulling heavy sleds loaded with their equipment and food every step of the way. Copeland narrates during this 87 minute film and, building the tension nicely, devotes the first 30 minutes to their meticulous preparation for what lies ahead. Their daily rations, which weigh in at just over two pounds an contain more than 7,000 calories each, are a perfect representation for everything else they've packed: maximum effectiveness at a minimum weight. Statistics aren't even on their side, as roughly 30% of those that attempt this journey are able to complete it. Perhaps the most impressive detail, of course, is that Copeland bothered to document this trip in the midst of such numbing, oppressive conditions. This fact alone offers proof of his conviction...so if To The Arctic feels a little heavy-handed at times, it's because Copeland has earned the right to stand on his soapbox.
Shot entirely on location with a Canon 5D Mark II camera, Into The Cold looks very impressive for a two-man production. The visuals are obviously more important here than your average documentary; they're not only meant to draw you into the experience, but clear evidence is needed for Copeland to get his point across. The "consumer grade equipment" factor will rightfully inspire a cluster of young filmmakers: if he can pull off sights like this in -50°F weather, your student film shouldn't be a problem. The DVD, originally released by Copeland independently two years ago, is now distributed by Shelter Island.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
This is a quality presentation, especially under the circumstances. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Into The Cold features a clean, crisp image with reasonably saturated color and a fine level of image detail. Black levels and shadow detail are limited at times, but it's mostly due to the high-end consumer grade equipment and not the DVD transfer. Speaking of which: very few digital anomalies could be spotted, as the image is generally free from edge enhancement, compression artifacts and the like.
The audio, presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo (with no 5.1 Surround, as the packaging suggests) is less ambitious but still gets the job done. It's true that a boost from the rear channels would help to intensify the formidable Arctic winds and , but this dialogue-driven film has no trouble getting its message across. Unfortunately for the deaf, hearing impaired and non-English speakers, no subtitles are included.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs offer smooth, simple navigation. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes a two-sided insert (hey, remember those?) with a general overview of the film, its mission statement and, of course, the two brave Arctic travelers.
Nothing except a Trailer; not surprising, but a few interviews or deleted scenes would've been nice.
Into The Cold takes you exactly where it promises, as Sebastian Copeland and Keith Heger brave the elements to show audiences how our environment has changed in recent times. It's a visually stunning documentary first and a "message movie" second, but anyone who appreciates this type of video diary experience will enjoy the ride. Shelter Island's DVD reissue of this 2010 film is exactly the same as the previous release, featuring a durable A/V presentation but no real extras. A Blu-ray would've been ideal, but "extreme climate" documentary fans will want to give this DVD a closer look. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.