An Inconvenient Truth

4 stars


3rd October 2006

Man, is this ever a hard sell: a former Presidential candidate waxes lyrical on the perils of global warming while his Powerpoint presentation plays in the background, complete with stats, graphs and - gasp - pie charts. Given a choice between this and Clerks 2 et al, the majority of moviegoers will no doubt give it a wide berth. That's not snobbery, there's are reasons film like An Inconvenient Truth will be largely ignored; your host, Al Gore, is, firstly, a politician, and secondly, a politician well-known for his lack of charisma (whenever I hear his name, I always think of the talking Al Gore doll from The Simpsons, who says "You are hearing me talk," in a monotonous voice). Secondly, in this day and age, it's easy to ignore a world threat that isn't conveniently wrapped in a turban and beard - wasn't global warming what everyone was worried about in the 90's? Hence the title; it may be a film that no one wants to see, but it presents a compelling argument that leaves you in little doubt that mankind are treating planet Earth like their own personal bitch.

Surprisingly, Gore makes for a genial host, and although you can't see him being too much fun at a club or social gathering, his presentation is laced with a sharp humour that betrays his grey persona. Gore has been crusading on behalf of the environment for years now, before he was robbed of the 2000 presidential election, and his dedication to the cause is evident throughout - though his passion doesn't manifest itself physically, he speaks with a scholarly tone that suggests he's willing to go to great lengths to deliver his message: man is slowly killing the planet, and if we don't act fast, we'll be too busy decaying beneath several feet of melted icecaps for him to say 'I told you so'. Although the format is indeed very similar to a university lecture, you never feel like you're being talked down to - if anything, it's an impassioned plea, a rallying cry against the forces of apathy, and it's difficult not to be affected by the sincere front that Gore presents. He's not quite Captain Planet - indeed, the slower moments fly by if you picture Gore, complete with green hair and blue skin, saving the Earth with the help of Wheeler, Kwame and friends - but he represents the Western world's most outspoken voice against the ravages of the environment (certainly more than the ape that's currently sitting in the White House eating pretzels).

Gore cuts right to business and presents a staggering array of facts and figures that reveal just how badly we treat Mother Earth (I won't divulge the specifics here, that's his job) and wisely deduces that flashy bar charts and snippets of text are not the way to get the attention of the popcorn-chomping masses. Though the cold, hard facts are terrifying enough on their own, they're supported by a variety of examples that get the message across in ways that line graphs only dream about; a video showing the face of the Earth after a raise of just a few degrees radically changes the globe as we know it, while seeing Hurricane Katrina pick up devilish speed as it races across the warm ocean is tinged with sadness. It's an extreme method (at least, as extreme as a Powerpoint presentation allows) and Gore is perhaps a little guilty of pouring salt into some still fresh wounds, but damn it, it's an issue that continues to be ignored by the politicians of the world, all of whom would do well prick their ears. It's odd to think that the exalted leaders in charge of our health and safety can't present information like this - information vital to our future existence as a species - as simply as Gore does. If the governments of the world want to keep us living in a permanent state of fear, they could so a lot worse than tell us straight exactly how our actions directly are affecting the planet.

It is an extremely hard sell, but it's presented in such a devastating fashion, it's almost impossible to leave the cinema with a clear conscience. Strolling through Canary Wharf after a showing, a friend noted that if just one of the companies housed in the district's huge business sector did their bit for the environment then it'd be the equivalent of the efforts of hundreds of thousands of individuals, therefore making his contribution seem worthless - a drop in an ever-more threatening ocean, if you will. But it's exactly that mentality that got the world so screwed up in the first place; it's about time someone exploited a new medium to try and get across to a new generation. Absolutely not to everyone's tastes then, but that's surely not the issue here - it's a film that shoots its message straight and true, and whether or not you find it entertaining is beside the point, you can't deny it's an important piece of work. If only a fraction of its audience pay attention, then it just might change the world, and frankly that's not something you can say about many films these days.

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