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An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk

MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic elements and some troubling images)

Running Time: 1:38

Release Date: 7/28/17 (limited); 8/4/17 (wide)


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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 3, 2017

It has been a bit over a decade since An Inconvenient Truth helped to bring the conversation about climate change to the forefront. This is a good time for an update on the state of the planet, especially as the United States begins to shirk its responsibilities as a leader in the world, thanks to its current leadership. There's a lot to discuss in just the past six months in terms of how the current administration plans to undo any progress the U.S. has made to combat climate change, but since it was obviously aiming for a release to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of its predecessor, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power isn't the means of that discussion.

The documentary's tone is oddly hopeful, which might seem like a strange observation, considering that Al Gore's slideshow presentation continues to have staggering charts about temperature changes and videos of severe weather phenomena that are now considered normal. The movie follows the former Vice President as he travels the globe to give training seminars on how to become a leader for change, and the climax is a lengthy sequence at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, which led to the global Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions.

In the background, there are video and audio clips of the 2016 Presidential campaign, which was already in full swing by that point. The frontrunner, who became President, is heard talking about how climate change isn't real, how the conference in Paris is a waste of time, and how the then-current President shouldn't be taking such a long trip when there are other things about which to worry (This earns a hearty laugh, since our sitting President can't seem to go a weekend without a trip to one of his golf courses).

Anyone who knows about what happened to the United States' end of the Paris Agreement will spend the movie waiting for the other shoe to drop. Instead, we get a bit of text at the end, telling us how, thanks to the decision of one man, our country has dropped out of that agreement.

One can't blame Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, the filmmakers (taking over for Davis Guggenheim, the first film's director), for their optimism. It was a different time when they were making the movie.

Things looked promising. Gore shows charts of how various countries around the globe are using renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and a map of cities within the United States that get all of their energy from such sources. He even has a nice meeting with the mayor of Georgetown, Texas, a Republican from "the reddest city in the reddest county in Texas." At the time of the meeting, about 90 percent of the city's power came from renewable energy (It's now 100 percent). The mayor's thinking is entirely financial: It's cheaper and works as well.

Early on, in one of those training sessions, Gore tells the audience not to despair too much, because there is hope at the end of it. That seems to the filmmakers' philosophy, too, but it comes across as a bit nave now. They can't be blamed for that, considering the filming schedule, but the end result feels like a runner taking a leisurely victory lap at the very start of a race, as the rest of his or her opponents sprint toward the finish line.

What is vital here is the new information. Gore visits ice sheets in Greenland, which are now full of holes and cracks from melting ice. We see water flooding in powerful spouts under the ice, hastening the sheets' move toward the ocean, where they will melt faster. The city streets of Miami Beach flood, as Gore stands in water about knee-high with city officials who have decided to raise the streets about a foot higher. It's a temporary fix, they know, but as Gore points out, "You can't pump the ocean." A rainstorm violently pounds a city in the Midwest, which is an occurrence that happens so frequently now that people had to give it a name: a "rain bomb." Because the global temperatures are increasing, droughts are more frequent (one of which led to a refugee crisis in Syria before any open conflict began in that country), as are forest fires.

The movie's hope lies in the Paris conference, to which it devotes a good chunk of time. Much of that time is spent following Gore as he attempts to negotiate a deal between the government of India and a solar cell company in California. The Indian government believes it should use fossil fuels to catch up with the rest of the world, since it seems that the developed world doesn't put its money where its mouth is to help developing nations implement renewable energy. The sequence paints Gore as the hero of the Paris conference for his behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing.

It would be nice if this were a victory, but we know it isn't. Current events already have caught up to An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power in a way that the filmmakers didn't anticipate, even though they probably could have. The movie's final notes include a social media campaign to continue the fight. If that's the best they have, it might be time to rethink the whole hope thing.

Copyright 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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