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.
It 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 disposal...it'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.