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Monday, August 21, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

The hard part about reviewing An Inconvenient Truth is not trying to bring across that it's a good movie, because it certainly is. The hard part is trying to convince your reader that a movie that is practically nothing but Al Gore lecturing to people about global warming is worth their hard-earned movie dollar. That, obviously, is a tricky area, as Mr. Gore has widely been ridiculed for his sometimes rather flat (for lack of a better word) personality and the way he would sometimes present himself in public. The Al Gore portrayed in this film is personable, entertaining, and knowledgeable about the topic he covers. He obviously cares a lot about his topic, and it comes through in his performance and to the audience. While on paper, watching Al Gore talking about the environment for an hour and 45 minutes sounds like a cure for insomnia, the film is actually rewarding and informative.

Director Davis Guggenheim has brought Al Gore's acclaimed lecture on global warming that he has given all over the world to the big screen. Gore's presentation is very simple and to the point. He uses graphs, comparison photos (showing areas showing signs of global warming before and current), charts, statistics, and occasionally multimedia (animation clips created for the lecture, and some taken from TV). During his lecture, he talks about the effects that global warming has had on the weather patterns, on the Earth itself, and on the people of the world. He brings forth some alarming figures and statistics, backed up by photos and documents. He also uses personal experiences, talking about first-hand encounters with these events, and close friends and colleagues past and present who have inspired his views. The film is never preachy and usually honest, never relying on cheap scare tactics. Yes, some of the before and after photos of glaciers and mountains are quite literally jaw-dropping, but he wisely does not play up the drama, and usually lets the photos speak for themselves.

The film is not set entirely in a confined lecture hall. Occasionally, the filmmakers follow Gore during his travels to different locations where he gives his lecture, and the people that he meets outside of his presentation. The most poignant and important moment of the film, to me personally, is when the film crew follows Gore to the remains of the family farm where he spent a good part of his childhood. As he shows us the different areas, and talks about his family and their business, he mentions that one of the key crops his father grew was tobacco. Although the Surgeon General eventually started cracking down hard on tobacco, his father mostly ignored the dangers, and did not think much that one of his daughters was a heavy smoker. He realized it was too late when the daughter passed away from lung cancer, and never dealt with tobacco crops ever again. Not only is the way Gore tells the story touching and heartfelt, but it also eventually ties into one of his main topics that we have to do something about the problem before it is too late to do anything. The way that he uses personal experiences or life stories, and mixes them into his message is wisely not heavy handed or manipulative, but flows naturally into his subject.

The thing that I think will surprise anyone who happens to see An Inconvenient Truth is that Al Gore is actually quite entertaining and charming in his delivery and presentation. We are viewing the man outside of the campaign trail and the spin zone of politics, and instead are hearing him talking one-on-one with us and his audiences during his lecture about a subject that is very dear to him, and that he has been following since his days in school. He is passionate but never preachy, and he is also very funny sometimes. There are a surprising number of laugh out loud moments in the film, both in Gore's clever wording and the way he delivers his lines. He comes across natural as a speaker in this film, and is actually very likeable. He does not talk down to the audience, nor does he make things needlessly complex. He does rely heavily on statistics, figures and graphs, but he keeps them simple so that just about anyone can understand.

Naturally, An Inconvenient Truth is not exactly a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen. But, it is a movie that I think needs to be seen. Its message is clear and concise, and told in a way that is never sappy or accusing. Gore wisely does not use his forum to attack others who disagree with him. Sure, he pokes a little fun at the opposition now and then, but he mainly uses his show as a chance to share his views and offer a wake up call about evidence that can be found all around us. With intelligence, personality and wit, Al Gore makes his point known, and has become one of the biggest entertainment surprises of the summer movie season.

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  • You've done a great job reviewing the movies, Ryan! I just found out about your website, and boy, am I thrilled. You give very insightful and detailed reviews with a dose of objectivity and most importantly, you substantiate your comments with well spelt-out reasons. Kudos. I'm a fan of your site now and will check in every week for new reviews. Cheers!

    By Blogger christopher.peh, at 6:56 AM  

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