There are two real stars of Mission Blue: marine botanist-geek Sylvia Earle, a quietly charismatic scientist who has been making marine biology sexy since the 1960s, and the ocean itself, stunningly captured (and released) by marine photographer Bryce Groark. Outer space and the oceans have long seemed the two things too vast to be conquered by humans, almost untouchable, even unruinable. But Earle and directors Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon are here to burst that bubble, arguing that we have overestimated the oceans' ability to withstand our exploitation, and we have underestimated our ability to ruin our environment.
Nixon, a documentarian and conservationist, and actor Stevens, an avid scuba diver, deal in scientific facts here, in an era when facts --especially those pointing to climate change or environmental calamity -- are oddly considered optional in many quarters. It helps that Earle and her oceanographer colleague at the Smithsonian Institute, Jeremy Jackson, are both scientists with unusual abilities to speak not just in understandable terms but also in eloquent ones. And it helps, too, that the music, images, storytelling, and editing are all so tight, and so enjoyable.
"Mission Blue" is also the name of Earle's effort to designate "hope spots" in the ocean, which are akin to protected parklands. After seeing this documentary, which continues Netflix's foray into high-quality documentary production, it's hard not to get on board.