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An Inconvenient Truth

It's the kind of movie that practically begged me to watch it. There were advertisements everywhere, assuring me that this was exactly what it should have been: a straight-forward, easy-to-follow, fact-driven documentary about what we've done to the planet. I don't go to the movies often. The reason? Not enough films are like this.

inconvenient2.jpgIt isn't difficult to make a documentary about global warming scary. My initial fear about this film was that it would resort to sensationalism...sensationalism with a moral purpose, mind you, but that doesn't appeal to me. When I see a film I like to be treated like an intelligent person. Needless to say, I'm often disappointed after trips to the theater.

But An Inconvenient Truth does not disappoint. Not in any sense of the word. In fact, I would argue that the film is so straight-forward that it's impossible for it to disappoint, but more on that shortly.

What we have here is part documentary and part presentation. That's something you should know about the film: it's a slide-show presentation, hosted by former United States Vice President Al Gore. I did not know this and was somewhat surprised...given the recent rebirth of the documentary format in legitimate wide-release cinema, I expected this to be shot and assembled more in the vein of Michael Moore than in the vein of...well...Al Gore.

But what we have is a straight cinematic adaptation of the very same slide-show presentation that Gore has given in over a thousand cities all over the globe. Your first reaction to this is probably negative, considering that he's now charging theater admission for what he was once travelling the world giving for free. My response to this is, simply, "Did you go see him on this lecture tour?"

Yeah, didn't think so.

So now he's taking it to our movie theaters, where people actually will go.

His presentation, however, is not what you would expect from a filmic experience. It's casual, leisurely, conversational...Gore presents the facts with visual aids (and a few well-chosen props) and talks you through them. Never once does he come across as a renegade documentarian. Nor is he a manic doomsday prophet. No...he comes across mainly as a very good college professor.

Which is by no means a bad thing. But the sheer simplicity of this movie is bound to catch more than a few film-goers off guard. Truth be told, considering the urgent subject matter, this isn't necessarily a bad decision.

What Gore has done is craft a simple presentation around his findings during the years he's spent researching modern ecology. Not only would a more elaborate presentation have potentially disrupted the impact of the facts, but it would also have had greater potential to go wrong. After all, Gore has no experience crafting fancy films. He does, however, have decades of experience in ecology. He sticks to what he knows, and An Inconvenient Truth is much the better for it.

To break the even tone of his lecture, Gore inserts "mini-documentaries" about his time as a young boy farming tobacco, his memories of his father, and, among other things, his moral awakening when his son was almost killed by an automobile. These are welcome digressions because they show us who Gore is...they give credence to the man in the suit. What's more, they grant him what many thought impossible: personality.

I say it's impossible for the film to disappoint, because any further expectations one might have of a film by Al Gore are unfounded to begin with. He has a point to make, and he uses fact after figure after fact to make it. While some may disagree with his conclusions (I type, biting my lip) there is nothing in his simple presentation that can really be understood as going wrong.

He uses visual aids very tellingly--often amusingly--to illustrate just how much we've managed to decimate the glaciers, just how significant we've increased the mean global heat, just how little time we have remaining to do something about it. Photographs of Lake Chad over the past few decades illustrate the almost unbearable fact that one of the Earth's most important bodies of water is now, literally, a puddle. We also watch the Swiss Alps melt before our very eyes, and the South Pole...wait...what South Pole? The facts are damning, and physically sickening.

But Gore never (and I repeat the word because it's important to note this) never allows himself to fall into scare tactics. He even concludes with the uplifting message that we already have all the technology we need to reverse the trend at our's just that we need to start using it.

The film is an important one to see, just as all good documentaries are. It gives you a greater awareness of where we are in the history of the world, and how important it is that we stop taking nature for granted. Needless to say, George Bush continually refuses Gore's offer to be given the presentation one-on-one.

In closing, there is one thing I hasten to add: why, oh why, did Al Gore wait so long to show us his personality? He's charming. He's intelligent. And--brace yourself--he's witty. Where was this during the race against Bush? Granted, he did win the popular vote, but one can't help but be amazed that this is the real Al Gore...much more convincing than the android that ran for president some years ago.

Oh well. We may have a chimp in the White House, but we have a soldier in the ecosystem. How effective is he going to be? Watch the film. Decide for yourself.

5 Stars

About this entry


The fact that there was no reason to mention this in the body of the article doesn't excuse me from not linking to it at all:

Bender, the voice of Billy West and an animated Al Gore promote the movie.

By Philip J Reed, VSc
July 09, 2006 @ 5:39 am

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We're going to have to wait until 8 September for this in the UK, goddamn it...

By Tanya Jones
July 09, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

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An American politician not relying on scare tactics? This I've gotta see.

By performingmonkey
July 10, 2006 @ 2:23 am

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"We're going to have to wait until 8 September for this in the UK, goddamn it..."

We'll have Jeremy Clarkson in our version so it'll be worth the wait.

By Doidge
July 10, 2006 @ 10:34 am

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"He's charming. He's intelligent. And--brace yourself--he's witty. Where was this during the race against Bush? "

The duration with Bush before this film only emphasises what America was missing. It's a bit like realising how much you care about someone only when you're on the verge of losing them. I think the timing of this film is perfect. Gore hasn't ruled out the chance of running again by the way, and even if he doesn't, this film will raise awareness of contenders like him, and help make pro-environmental issues increasingly realistic in the minds of sceptics, so that framing potentially decent presidents as willy-nilly flip-floppers or whatever will be increasingly difficult to do.

By Doidge
July 10, 2006 @ 10:53 am

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>Gore hasn't ruled out the chance of running again by the way

Actually, I had in mind that he sort of did rule it out, but, in fairness, my source is a press-conference very very soon after Bush was declared president. So a change of heart for Gore is music to my ears.

It's just amazing how little of his personally shined through during the race. Throughout the entire ordeal he came across as stiff and uncomfortable...throughout this film he comes across as urbane and self-aware. Which is the real Al Gore? I'd definitely say the latter, if only because he's so believable...whereas the presidential race made him seem almost like Politco-Bot 47b.

If his strategy is to get potential voters on his side by making his views clear like this, then I only hope it works. To say, "Yeah, I care about the environment" during a campaign is one thing. To take time out of your own life to deliver a lecture on the subject for free all around the planet...well, that's another, and it's clear he intends to do something about it.

By Philip J Reed, VSc
July 10, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

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> Throughout the entire ordeal he came across as stiff and uncomfortable

That's probably because he knew he didn't stand a chance all along. Rigged, just like the towers.

By performingmonkey
July 10, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

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You don't think the towers were rigged do you, Monkey?

By Doidge
July 11, 2006 @ 10:56 am

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Regarding future plans of running for president again, courtesy of his Wikipedia entry:
Speaking at an economic forum in Stockholm, Sweden, in October 2005, Gore again stated that he had no intention of ever running for president again, in response to questions from reporters. However, he refused to rule the possibility out completely saying, "I do not completely rule out some future interest, but I do not expect to have that." When asked how the United States would have been different if he had become president, Mr. Gore stated, "We would not have invaded a country that didn't attack us. We would not have taken money from the working families and given it to the most wealthy families. We would not be trying to control and intimidate the news media. We would not be routinely torturing people."

By Philip J Reed, VSc
July 15, 2006 @ 12:58 am

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We saw this last night, finally.

It was, of course, fucking brilliant.

But what hit me - perhaps sadly - even more than the climate change stuff (which really has spurred me into taking a serious look at the way I do things), was the thought of how much better the world would be if a genuinely intelligent, sincere, empathic and downright good man had become the most powerful man in the world, instead of his exact opposite in every way.

But if you believe in parallel universes I suppose there's some comfort to be taken...

By Seb
November 04, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

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>the thought of how much better the world would be if a genuinely intelligent, sincere, empathic and downright good man had become the most powerful man in the world

Yeah, without question I feel the same way. Which is really sad to me because during his campaign, Gore was so...I don't know. Nobody doubted his intelligence, or his sincerity...but the "good man" stuff didn't come into play much...he was stiff, nervous...too soft spoken.

He got my vote, alright, but I kind of do understand the mis-step his campagin took. The man in front of the auditorium in Inconvenient Truth was Al Gore...and I guess it was an Al Gore who no longer had to worry about whether or not he'd wake up and find himself President of the United States. That's the man I wish America got to see on the campaign trail...

Ah well. If wishes were trees, etc...

By Phil
November 04, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

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