As a warning about global warming, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was surely direct, but it was also relatively polite. The former vice president told us that what we were doing was wrong, but he was so well-mannered about it that he never really made us feel like the callous jerks we are. Thankfully, as earth's environmental outlook grows more and more bleak, The 11th Hour steps in to deliver some crucial knockout blows.
Produced and narrated by Leonardo di Caprio, The 11th Hour attacks us, the humans who caused all this in the first place, more fiercely than Gore would ever dare. News footage, nature shots and talking-head commentary mingle to form a driving narrative that indicts our foolish choices. There is the standard array of scientific projections and statistics, but filmmakers Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen take the bold stance that the heart of the problem is our way of thinking—our culture of rampant consumption and our opinion of ourselves as somehow superior to nature.
For instance, the film rightly takes issue with the oft-repeated phrase, "saving the earth." In reality, no matter how much environmental havoc we wreak, the earth will still be here. It may be uninhabitable, but it will be around. It is, of course, the human race which will be wiped out by the cataclysms of global warming.
Though the film effectively argues that we are indeed on our planet's last stop en route to Armageddon, it avoids such pabulum as that hybrid cars are the salvation; as the title suggests, we simply don't have any easy options left. While it could leave one feeling totally hopeless about our chances of survival—we can't un-cut the trees or bring back extinct species, after all—The 11th Hour does provide the tools to help change our way of thinking ASAP. The downbeat disposition may be too much for some, but as the film shows, the direct approach is really the only one we have time for.
The 11th Hour opens Friday, Aug. 31, at Rialto Lakeside Cinemas (551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa; 707.525.4840) and the Century CineArts at Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley; 415.388.4862).
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