Chris Knight is the chief film critic at the
National Post where this review originally appeared.
to what the trailers say, this is probably not the scariest
film you'll see this year, what with Robin Williams' alleged
comedy RV in theatres and Saw III due out
this fall. But it is a frighteningly important and grippingly
interesting tale of the environmental harm we are doing to the
planet, the consequences we'll live to see if nothing changes
and a few pointers on how to stop soiling our own nest.
prophet of doom and hope is Al Gore, long-time environmental
champion, vice-president under Bill Clinton in the 1990s and
winner of the popular vote against George W. Bush in 2000. Since
then he's taken his message on the road, and the lecture circuit
suits him. Prevailing wisdom is that if he'd been this animated
on the hustings, the 2004 campaign to "re-elect Gore"
would have been for real.
Davis Guggenheim shoots Gore's auditorium presentation with
a minimum of fuss, letting the speaker do the work. This involves
a certain amount of showmanship, as when Gore climbs aboard
a mechanical lift to reach the top of a chart showing Earth's
average temperature and CO2 levels, which are skyrocketing.
But for the most part, the statistics and images need no embellishment.
Pictures of receding glaciers, the sudden collapse of Antarctica's
Larsen B ice shelf in 2002, images of a hurricane-wracked New
Orleans or of what a modest rise in sea levels would do to coastal
cities (hint: How long can we tread water?) paint a vivid, horrifying
although Gore describes the recent droughts, flooding and lethal
heat waves in Europe as "a nature walk through the Book
of Revelation," it's not all fire and brimstone. He can
be very funny, too, as when ruminating on the choice between
getting rich and saving the planet, before explaining that we
can have it both ways. The film also takes time to humanize
the speaker, with asides on an accident that almost killed Gore's
young son, the loss of his sister to lung cancer and (perhaps
unnecessarily) a recap of the electoral fiasco of 2000.
presents his message as non-partisan, although the record of
the Republicans in power leaves a lot to be desired, and we
get a clip of the first President Bush warning that too much
environmental protection and "we'll be up to our necks
in owls," an image as striking as it is ludicrous. Gore
ends on an apolitical note, telling viewers to visit www.climatecrisis.net
for more information, while the closing credits include suggestions
for curbing our own contribution to the problem.
stories often include a caveat in the name of objectivity, along
the lines of "if global warming is in fact a reality."
Gore researched a thousand peer-review papers on the topic and
found that none doubted the veracity that things are getting
worse; the qualifier exists only in the media. The theory of
global warming is as real as the theory of gravity. Gore takes
us to the edge of the abyss to see if we'd like to put it to
the test, and then suggests we might want to back away instead.