If there’s anyone who still believes Ralph Nader’s cynical charge that there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush, the new documentary An Inconvenient Truth will blow that notion out of the water.
Gore has spent decades compiling and refining a sophisticated multimedia presentation (modestly referred to as his “slide show”) about the social, political and environmental implications of global warming. Through graphics, cartoons and persuasive photographs, the former vice president builds a convincing argument for immediate global concern. Linking carbon emission studies, rising health problems, melting glaciers and vanishing sources of fresh water, An Inconvenient Truth is both a warning and a call to arms.
Considering the dry and complex nature of his subject matter, Gore’s presentation is crisp, accessible and surprisingly entertaining. (It even includes a clip from Futurama … which his daughter, Kristin, wrote for.) Gore presents a near-unanimous scientific view that the Earth’s climate is changing. Challenging the view that he’s a dull know-it-all, he comes across as personable and passionate, a thoughtful man who cares deeply about global warming. So much so that you can’t help but wonder, “Where was this Gore six years ago?”
Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim rises above the potentially dull subject matter to deliver a documentary that looks and feels like a concert film. It lets us digest details from Gore’s state-of-the-art lecture while following his tour from one city to the next. With a few small insights into Gore’s personal history, we learn how specific life events shaped his interests and character while laying the groundwork for arguments he makes later in the film. Whatever your opinion about Al Gore the politician, there’s no denying his personal conviction and the elegance of his treatise.
More than a few have commented on the radical shift in Gore’s public image since his presidential defeat. He seems to have found a way to express the more charming facets of his personality — which will no doubt lead some to question the political agenda at work here. The film’s toughest challenge will be to rise above both the inevitable partisan criticisms and preaching to the choir. The truth is, a lot of Republicans will avoid An Inconvenient Truth simply because it’s a movie featuring Al Gore.
And that’s a shame, as the effects of global warming don’t pick sides. If nothing else, the destruction of Hurricane Katrina proved that disasters are equal-opportunity. If you can get around the fact that the messenger is Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth may be one of the most rational and coherent arguments presented on film in a long time. Sure it’s propaganda. Gore’s intentions are nakedly clear: to use the film as an agent of social change. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of what he has to say. No matter what your political inclination, this plea for environmental consciousness is worth listening to. Who knows, in this summer of bombast and banality, you might actually learn something. It also seems a particularly cruel irony that the film opens opposite Pixar’s newest animated juggernaut, Cars, an unabashed celebration of all things gas-guzzling and greenhouse gas-spewing. Oh, Al, are you ever gonna get a break?
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].