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'Mission Blue' review: A hero for the ocean in this important doc

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Mission Blue Documentary

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Dr. Sylvia Earle is a hero to get behind. With a passionate, informative and extremely urgent cause, Dr. Earle asks the world to wake up and start protecting our oceans, now, before it’s too late. As the focus of “Mission Blue,” which opens Friday, August 15 at the Laemmle Music Hall Theatre (and also streams on Netflix the same day), Dr. Earle dazzles us with the beauty of the ocean depths (gorgeously filmed), as well as disheartens us by how carelessly we’ve destroyed large portions of the sea. But she also offers insights for hope.

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Produced and directed by actor and ocean lover Fisher Stevens (who also produced the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary “The Cove”), “Mission Blue” is a smart film with a message. Chronicling the fascinating Dr. Sylvia Earle and her life’s work, the film succinctly points out the grave danger we’re facing as we destroy underwater inhabitants via pollution, over-fishing and climate change. Nearly four years in the making, “Mission Blue" follows Dr. Earle all over the world as she works to protect the seas. Her mission is sensible – create oceanic “Hope Spots.” As with protected lands and National Parks, Dr. Earle looks to legislate similar sanctuaries of the ocean.

Yet, what elevates this documentary to a level above just a “worthy cause film” is Dr. Sylvia Earle herself. Focusing on her achievements, we come to realize what a groundbreaking oceanographer she was and still is. Growing up in Florida, she discovered as a young girl a love for the sea. Earning B.S., M.S., and PhD. degrees, Dr. Earle spent her life studying the waters, and is quantifiably one of the utmost experts on the ocean. Director James Cameron calls Dr. Earle the “Joan of Arc” of the sea.

From the start, as an oceanographer as well as a wife and mother, Dr. Earle juggled her passions, and in 1964 was the only woman on the International Indian Ocean expedition. This was where she realized the magnitude of how much they “didn’t” know about the sea. Since then, Dr. Earle has led more than 100 ocean research expeditions, including the first team of women aquanauts living under the ocean during the Tektite Project in 1970. Yet, being a wife, mother and scientist hasn’t always been easy as Dr. Earle candidly talks to Fisher Stevens, who also acts as the film’s interviewer/narrator, about her marriages and divorces.

But her passion for the sea is tireless. In a series of scenes we see Stevens travel all over the world with Dr. Earle, and at times on the boat, he looks exhausted. But Dr. Earle – she sits on deck, typing on her computer, drinking a hot beverage. Slowing down is not an option when the sea needs rescuing.

Simply put, Dr. Sylvia Earle is a remarkable and formidable woman in the impressive “Mission Blue,” and its message should resonate with us all. As she says in the film, “No ocean; no life. No ocean; no us.”

“Mission Blue” is 95 minutes, Not Rated and opens in Los Angeles August 15 at the Laemmle Music Hall Theatre. For more information on the Mission Blue Movement, visit www.mission-blue.org.

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