"An Inconvenient Truth": Al Gore's slide show commands attention
Seattle Times movie critic
Who would have thought that a stirring movie could be made from footage of Al Gore presenting a slide show, interspersed — for excitement's sake — with footage of Gore tapping away on his laptop or walking through airports? But it turns out that Davis Guggenheim's "An Inconvenient Truth," which documents Gore's longtime crusade to raise awareness of global warming and climate change, is packed with drama, if you know where to look for it.
The film is both a wake-up call for the planet, and an inspiring story of one man's dedication to a cause. And yes, most of it is a slide show.
Gore has been presenting his "traveling global-warming show" for years now, to more than a thousand audiences, and it's heavy with bar graphs, charts and statistics. But Gore, who so often seemed dry and humorless during his years in public office, seems droll and relaxed here, and comfortable enough to laugh at his own wonky image. (In one scene, he rides a somewhat goofy-looking hydraulic lift that raises him to the top of the screen on which the slides project; and he looks like he's thoroughly enjoying the ride.)
But the man who cheerfully introduces himself as "the former president-elect of the United States" has serious matters to convey. After explaining the concept of global warming in simple terms, he presents alarming statistics about an ever-warming Earth: shrinking glaciers (including alarming photos of the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro fading fast), dangerous heat waves, increased flood, animal extinction, devastation of coastal areas. And he emphasizes that this is not partisan alarmism but consensus from the scientific community — and that the mass media has failed in conveying it.
Guggenheim presents no voices in the film other than Gore's and few departures from the slide show (to explore several key events in Gore's life: the loss of his sister, the near-death of his son, the 2000 election drama). With its reverent tone, "An Inconvenient Truth" could almost pass for a campaign film, with Gore as the lone-wolf hero at its center. But it emerges as something else: the story of a man who has found his purpose, who is invigorated by the idea of spreading truth and is no longer worried about how he looks to focus groups.
Regardless of how you may feel about Gore the politician, this film is an important one, and its ultimate message of hope (it's not too late) and duty (as humans, we need to do the right thing by the planet on which we live) is inspiring and invigorating. It's a character study hidden within an environmental film, and it succeeds admirably at both.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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