THE 11TH HOUR
Directors: Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen
MPAA Rating: (for some mild disturbing images and thematic elements)
Running Time: 1:35
Release Date: 8/17/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
Coming off the heels of the huge impact An Inconvenient Truth made on awareness of climate change is The 11th Hour, which says more of the same but in a more aggressive, less scientific approach. It's also more pessimistic and less rallying. An Inconvenient Truth's presentation had the ability to make naysayers think twice, but this movie isn't concerned with the skeptics. It's preaching to the choir, but nonetheless, it is some effective preaching. The 11th Hour is even less concerned with how we, the individual, can make a change than Al Gore's speech (one of the obvious flaws with that film), and its foretelling of gloom and doom almost make the entire idea of worrying about the global climate change crisis seem unnecessary, seeing as we're all apparently going to die by our own industrialized hands. When a few interview subjects here start talking about how the entire species of human beings can go extinct because of man-made global warming but the planet Earth will live on (thanks for the consolation?), there doesn't seem to be much hope. When the movie finally gets to its hopeful conclusion of new, environmentally-sound designs coming out of the woodwork, it's almost counteractive in encouraging passivity to these developments.
That's not to say the whole movie doesn't work. Leonardo DiCaprio (who also produced the movie) narrates how the movie will prove man-made climate change is a real threat, who's to blame, and what efforts are being made to deter the eventual apocalyptic downfall of mankind. It gets the latter two dead on, and if the second area (who's to blame) seems a little biased, all the better. The first argument is a bit flawed, only because the movie expects its audience to have bowed on bended knee to Gore's scientific presentation. There's little science here, but there are a lot of talking heads telling us how bad things are and how worse they're going to get. Included among them is Stephen Hawking, and when Stephen Hawking says the worst-case scenario of Earth is that it will end up like Venus, "250 degrees Centigrade and raining sulfur," it's hard not to take pause. A lot of scientists, authors, and environmentalists are on display here—their words intercut with images of humanity's industrial progress and nature's beauty—but they all basically say the same thing: We're screwed. Later when DiCaprio tells us the case has been made, it's difficult to agree with him, seeing as we've only really heard hearsay without much data.
The second part works much better, because the movie drops its faux scientific aims and gets right to its obvious political ambitions. The second section argues that our present economic system is largely to blame for climate change. The economy is all about growth, but the resources of the Earth have a limit. When the population doubles in the course of less than 40 years (three billion in the 1960s to six billion in 1999), more resources are needed. Add to that the perceived cultural problem of instant gratification and a waste-oriented society, and the opinion seems pretty sound. Some here argue that a complete overhaul of economic ideology is necessary. Good luck getting that past the lobbying interests working next to (or over) the government. So once again: We're screwed. Fear not, as there is a new movement underway to come up with designs that integrate Green principles into everyday life that utilize renewable energy sources to give us the comforts to which we've become accustomed. They flash by pretty quickly, but one can spot a dance club that produces energy by body movement on the dance floor and natural air conditioning that costs a lot less. The movie's philosophy here seems to be, just stand by, a change is coming.
But is it really? The 11th Hour's strong points are in its last two arguments: one politically-driven, the other technologically-minded. The long recap of oncoming disaster gives the movie too much cynicism, and a focus on these new developments in efficient, sustainable energy and how they could give people the same quality of life without the potentially damaging effects to later generations would make a stronger, more inclusive case than the one on display here.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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