An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power

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Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

An Inconvenient Sequel - A decade after An Inconvenient Sequel brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the riveting follow up that shows both the escalation of the crisis and how close we are to a real solution.
"This documentary feels confined by constraints that should have been stripped away in the filming process."

When it comes to boundless energy resources, former US vice-president Al Gore seems to have cracked the secret, with his megawatt charm and way of attracting people of all political stripes into his orbit. Back in 2006, his climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth broke out of the festival circuit to genuinely make an impact on the debate, and he is still as passionate, if not more so, about humans' impact on our environment.

For the purposes of this documentary follow-up by co-directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk it's just as well, because they rely heavily on Gore and, in particular, on the multimedia presentations he gives to fledgling environmentalists.

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Like its predecessor, there are plenty of facts and figures that are alarming - such as the continued rise in sea levels and 'epic' weather events, including Gore notes with no satisfaction, the flooding of New York's Ground Zero hypothesised in the previous film and much scorned at the time by deniers. There are also quite a few chinks of light, such as the exponential take up of solar power in some developing countries. Sadly, Cohen and Shenk do almost nothing to expand this data into the cinematic realm. In the same way that fiction films adapted from plays can feel trapped by their source material, so this documentary feels confined by constraints that should have been stripped away in the filming process.

Despite this, Gore and his arguments remain compelling - with his assertions moving beyond straight forward impacts on climate to consider how major events, such as a lasting drought in Syria, began the refugee tide as people were forced from their land and could be argued to have fanned the flames of unrest, although to his credit, Gore is careful not to forget that that country's issues are particularly complex and involve multiple triggers. His tirelessness in the run up to the Paris United Nations climate change conference in 2015 is particularly inspiring - even though his personal impact is surely overplayed, not unlike the number of 'reaction' shots used when he is giving his presentations, as faces light up in the face of The Man.

The film is strongest away from Gore's core presentation, when we see the charmer at work, bolstering positivity with a mix of easygoing persistence and self-deprecating humour or genuinely soul searching about the things he has not yet managed to achieve. His subtle and steady approach is in stark contrast to the normally reliable Jeff Beal's overly bombastic score, which crashes in the background unnecessarily given that the evidence speaks for itself - perhaps he felt the lack of dynamism in the direction too and tried to go the extra mile.

Despite its cinematic failings, the film remains an important reminder that even with the breakthrough in Paris, we have by no means 'won' the battle of climate change. And, with its bang up-to-date inclusion of president Donald Trump's climate change skepticism and pledges to fossil fuel businesses, it's a timely reminder that we can take a step backwards just as easily as we can move forwards.

Reviewed on: 20 Jan 2017
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Al Gore continues his crusade to stop climate change.

Director: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk

Starring: Al Gore

Year: 2017

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US


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