Mission Blue

A compelling human-interest hook and spectacular underwater photography are the highlights of Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon's documentary.

The majesty and imperiled status of the world’s aquatic life are vividly captured in “Mission Blue.” Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon’s documentary also serves as a biographical portrait of internationally renowned oceanographer and eco-activist Sylvia Earle, whose trailblazing career and inspiring ongoing efforts provide compelling human interest, while Bryce Groark’s spectacular underwater photography offers eye candy aplenty. This “Mission” is marred only by co-director Stevens’ insistence on inserting himself whenever possible as a wholly gratuitous host/jester/co-star; that inapt vanity-project whiff aside, the brisk, polished pic looks shipshape for international broadcast sales.
As Earle points out, the planet’s waters are in dire shape, and that is very bad news for life on Earth in general. However, many who profit from their despoiling are reluctant to hear that message — something she had particular experience with in a brief, frustrating Washington, D.C., tenure as chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the early 1990s.
In the present tense, we glimpse environmentally catastrophic human actions like the mass harvesting of sharks solely for their valued fins, and industrial oil spills that create enormous aquatic dead zones. Earle’s current principal cause, also called Mission Blue, is advocating for hope spots, designated government-protected oceanic zones where nature can recover and be preserved from excess human impact.