If An Inconvenient Truth started a trend of lecture films, then The 11th Hour is the most lecture-y so far. It feels more like a PowerPoint presentation than An Inconvenient Truth, which actually was a glorified PowerPoint presentation. The latest attempt to wrap Joe Schmoe's head around our planet's eco-crises, it provides a propulsive rush of information, a methodical environmental checklist of green wisdom that, while never boring, feels more like something made for schools than cinema screens.
Most people know The 11th Hour as 'Leonardo DiCaprio's global warming movie.â?� Though he produced it, DiCaprio isn't in the movie all that much, appearing as narrator every 15 minutes or so to introduce a new segment. But even as the sexy new face of environmental awareness, his presence is purely superfluous. The fact that he's getting all the attention for collaborating on this piece of filmic activism undermines the truly important figures ' some 70 scientists, designers, historians and thinkers, recorded in more than 150 hours of interviews ' that give the movie its credibility. Unfortunately, Stephen Hawking, James Woolsey and Thom Hartmann don't sell tickets.
An apocalyptic manifesto, The 11th Hour exudes a doom-laden urgency in laying out its case about the destruction of the planet's ecosystem and the human activity causing it, and the film has just as much power to frighten as Al Gore's educational polemic. But where An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed the Electric Car? had a centralized focus, The 11th Hour is all over the map, saying in 95 minutes what could encompass six or seven college courses if fully expounded upon.
As such, we're left with several enlightening trends that the filmmakers assert are part of a larger global collapse: our opportunistic need for expansion at the cost of our natural resources, our dumping of toxins into our oceans, the spread of asthma, pollution, the eradication of our forests, our reliance on fossil fuel and the government's damaging relationship with Big Oil. The film's most interesting segment factors human existence in the broader context of the animal species ' Homo sapiens may harbor an air of indestructibility, but like nearly every other species before us, we too are likely to end up extinct.
The movie then shifts to its most agitprop portion, becoming an infomercial for What You Can Do to make the world a better place. But for all its championing of solar-powered energy, electric cars and even a really cool dance club powered by the feet of its patrons, it fails to explain the cost of what amounts to a complete rebuilding of our infrastructure. It takes a lot of green to go green, and while I'm optimistic Americans would pay more taxes to invest in a sustainable future, it would take an administration committed to stopping the climate crisis to accomplish anything of lasting value.
Al Gore put it better in his film when he said the only thing stopping us from winning the war on climate change is political will ' otherwise, the little things we do as average Americans amount to chipping away at our global prison cell with a spoon.
The 11th Hour's disposition toward the imminent feasibility of change may be a bit too sunny (OK, poor word choice), but we can't fault the filmmakers' hope and idealism. The arguments the movie presents are powerful, necessary and, most importantly, underexplored by an increasingly distracted mainstream media.
The far right will hate the film, because it only presents one side of the 'argumentâ?� about global warming. I would hope we'd be past the 'debateâ?� over global warming's existence at this point, given that the only scientists refuting climate change are the ones hired by Exxon Mobil. But as a reminder, the film presents a clip of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe's deplorable speech labeling global warming a 'hoax.â?�
The Bush administration is also taken to task for courting the oil companies, bringing to mind the one thing President Bush has said that everyone agrees on ' 'We are addicted to oilâ?� ' and his subsequent inability to do anything about it.
Technically, The 11th Hour is unexceptional, the bright talking heads edited together with National Geographic/Discovery Channel'like stock footage, some IMAX-like vistas scored to New-Agey music and, of course, Leo, usually stupidly caught in a panning shot looking off into the distant horizon. After the most frightening portion of the film, DiCaprio begins his narration with 'So â?¦â?�, wrapping up the section the way a high-schooler would start the 'in conclusionâ?� paragraph of his final essay. I don't like a film that has to tell its audience what it learned, but if just one environmentally ignorant teenybopper sees The 11th Hour for DiCaprio's appearances and as a result decides to turn off a light every once in a while, I can't complain.