Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 5, No. 5, 2006
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
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  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
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Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk


Al Gore

reviewed by


After the last tree has been cut down, after the last river has been poisoned,
after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find
that money cannot be eaten. Cree prophecy


Chris Knight is the chief film critic at the National Post where this review originally appeared.

Contrary 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.

The 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.

jogging in paradiseDirector 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 picture.

But 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.

Gore 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 for more information, while the closing credits include suggestions for curbing our own contribution to the problem.

Newspaper 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.

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