|An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Starring: Al Gore
Director: Davis Guggenheim
The one thing that a lot of people will assume about “An Inconvenient Truth,” sight unseen, is that the movie is a pile of liberal propaganda, and that is a shame. Al Gore, the movie’s star, stresses repeatedly that global warming is not a political issue, and only occasionally makes mention of the Republican Party, outside of his great opening line about how he “used to be the next President of the United States.” The issue, he contends, is a moral one, which is surely something that the conservatives can get behind, right?
The setup for the movie is pretty simple: Al Gore is recorded presenting his “slide show” on global warming, interspersed with footage of him globetrotting in hopes of spreading the message. The first thing that leaps out at you is how charismatic Gore is, a startling contrast from the media portrayal of him as a robot. Gore, by his own admission, has done this slide show a thousand times, so perhaps he’s worked on it enough to learn when to throw in a little funny, but it is nonetheless a side of Gore that is rarely seen and discussed even less. The second thing you’ll notice is that charts and graphs have never been so fascinating. Gore breaks down all sorts of numbers, from air temperature readings to carbon dioxide ratios dating back over half a million years to the countries most responsible for the problem (surprise, it’s us). But the most startling part of his presentation comes when he shows a series of before-and-after shots of snowy mountains and bodies of water, and how they have, for all intents and purposes, dried up. That he included a segment from “Futurama,” called “Global Warming: None Like It Hot,” is gravy (though it should be disclosed that Gore’s daughter Kristin was a writer on the show). Even that doesn’t touch the moment when he uncovers a Republican memo stating their plan to turn global warming into theory, rather than fact, a plan that has been alarmingly effective.
The non-slide show segments were clearly an attempt to humanize the Gorebot, but they actually do more harm than good, since they distract from the more important part of the movie, and that is the slide show. The movie could literally have been the slide show alone, and it would have been just fine. The back story cutaways are clearly intended to explain the origins of Gore’s character – the family farm grew tobacco, Gore’s older sister Nancy died of lung cancer, the family stopped growing tobacco – but the roots of his ideals do not seem to matter in the wake of his message. The numbers, quite simply, speak for themselves, and while the CGI animation of a polar bear swimming in an endless sea looking for a piece of ice is grossly manipulative (they’re finding more and more drowned polar bears, apparently), it is nonetheless effective. But even that doesn’t touch Gore’s graphics on what would happen to high-density areas around the world if the oceans rose by 20 feet (there are two pieces of ice capable of doing exactly that): Manhattan? Underwater. Southern Florida? A giant coral reef.
If there is one thing that “An Inconvenient Truth” makes painfully clear, it’s that whether global warming is fact or fiction, we would be fools to sit idly by and act as if everything is just hunky dory, and that validates its effectiveness as a documentary. It’s probably the most extreme example of Helen Lovejoy’s catchphrase “Won’t somebody please think of the children” that you’re likely to see. And when you see it, you’ll definitely think of the children.
A pretty bare-bones outing for this feature. There are two audio commentaries, one by director Davis Guggenheim and one by the four producers of the movie. The making-of featurette is solely about building the theater where Gore’s slide show takes place, and there’s a music video for Melissa Etheriedge’s “I Need to Wake Up.” The best bonus feature, by far, is the 30-minute clip of Al Gore updating his statistics and focusing on what has transpired since they finished shooting the movie, including glacial earthquakes and the rise in the oceans’ acidic level.