An Inconvenient Truth


Reviewed by: Chris

An Inconvenient Truth
"If [Al Gore] was a school-teacher, no-one would have ever skipped class."

When Participant Productions set out its goal, "to deliver compelling entertainment that will inspire audiences to get involved in the issues that affect us all", the results were a little uneven. Good Night, and Good Luck, was an Oscar-nominated dramatisation of events from the McCarthy era focussing on freedom of speech. North Country also looked at social issues, again with an impressive Hollywood cast, and picked up nominations for acting although its screenplay verged on cheesy in its upholding of women's rights. Syriana was a compelling thriller with a well-researched subtext exposing the intrigues of the global oil industry. Now into the fray comes An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary feature with Al Gore, "who used to be the next president of the United States", getting us fired up about global warming.

It's an impressive science lesson, but if that doesn't sound exciting enough to get you out of your armchair and along to your multiplex on a Saturday night, maybe look at it from a different angle. Will it inspire you? Will it move you? Will it give you something to discuss as you come out of the cinema? And will it give the thrill of emotion that you feel you deserve having coughed up the price of an admission ticket? The answer to all those questions is probably yes.

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My heart supported the movie even before I went to see it, but part of me felt that although it was very worthy that someone was tackling global warming, there was no real urgency to get to the cinema. Maybe if Spielberg did a bank-busting, special-effects laden, futuristic adventure of the world slipping into chaos with melting of ice-caps, yes; but after I had dragged myself along to An Inconvenient Truth almost out of a sense of duty, I had to take my hat off to Mr Al Gore for presenting as exciting, well-produced and fulfilling a movie as I could want for the price of a ticket. If he was a school-teacher, no-one would have ever skipped class.

When global warming is bandied about so much, I enjoyed having all those questions we're meant to know the answers but don't like to ask explained. How do greenhouse gases cause climate change? Drought? Hurricanes? Floods? and so on, rather than just, well, a slightly nicer summer. It might not be rocket-science, but no-one ever told me as a kid. Gore doesn't miss his chance to say that the administration had been accurately informed of the extent of the damage Hurricane Katrina would cause, but he does so as part of a wider exposition rather than as political point-scoring. He comes across as witty, sincere, responsible and intelligent - he really does - which made me wonder if the American elections might have turned out differently if he had made this film years ago. There's something rather human about his passion. It says rather more about American values than "he made lots of money, enjoyed spending it, and went to church every Sunday," and it makes you want to trust him. He appears to have pursued the facts about global warming with no little scientific integrity over many years and his production makes a welcome change from a political speech where we know the object is for the guy just to sell himself. Gore's transparent presentation skills alone make me want to watch it again and try to pick up some tips.

You won't see many bad reviews - the main hurdle is making the effort to buy a ticket. As with the global warming debate itself, we tend to be locked into a lifestyle of minimal attention span. Thrillers, even second rate thrillers, fill seats, but a 'documentary' sounds off-putting. Gore suggests that there is zero dispute in the scientific journals over the main facts, whereas popular articles are split down the middle - a fact he attributes largely to deliberate campaigns by vested interests, which "reposition global warming as theory rather than fact". But how many of us spend the time to read a scientific journal?

In a chilling reference to 9/11, the film shows a map of where the memorial will be, and projects a map to show the likely scenario where large parts of Manhattan, including Ground Zero, are under water. Although the film is very sober and thorough, the academic in me still wants to be able to check the quoted references personally, and it is a shortcoming that more sources are not listed, even in the film's end-credits or on the official website.

Given that the time-scale before it is too late to prevent widespread disasters involving millions of lives is put quite believably at less than fifty years - and that governments, particularly the primary worst-offender, the USA, are in short-term denial - Gore is remarkably upbeat about the possibilities of success in taking effective action. It is this quality of indomitable optimism, armed with a solid armoury of reality, that makes us marvel that he is making movies rather than leading the most powerful nation in the world.

Reviewed on: 15 Sep 2006
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An Inconvenient Truth packshot
Al Gore investigates global warming.
Amazon link

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Starring: Al Gore

Year: 2006

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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