Movie Review: “An Inconvenient Truth,” back on Netflix for the slow-to-catch-on crowd

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Seeing this title turn up, suddenly, post-“Super Storm Sandy” — on Netflix streaming made me laugh. And wince. There’s all this new polling out that suggests, thanks to that storm, the extended drought in the Red State midwest, “the hottest year on record,” the lack of snow and the verification by Big Insurance statistics, that the last people in America to start “believing” in global climate change have finally come around.

So Netflix wasn’t offering Al Gore a victory lap with this vilified-by-Fox Oscar winning documentary. They were offering all those folks who spent the past seven years hearing how he was leading an evil conspiracy a chance at a hearing and seeing the truth for themselves.

To those of us who saw this 1989 series by the British science show host James Burke, Gore wasn’t some “out there” cynic trying to profit from a “global scam.” He was just confirming what Burke had predicted 17 years earlier.

But in any event, it’s worth re-posting my “Inconvenient” review here, just for those who may be encountering this world-changing documentary for the first time.

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah was the prophet heaped with scorn as he warned and warned the Israelites of a coming reckoning.

That seems to be the role Al Gore is taking on. The former vice president and failed presidential aspirant has found his voice in telling the world “An Inconvenient Truth,” the title of Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary about Gore and global warming.

Gore describes the people he has learned from and the sights he has seen, a climate heating up, with more intense hurricanes, higher sea levels, mass extinctions, droughts and shrinking ice packs, “a nature walk through the Book of Revelation,” he says.

His message? The Day After Tomorrow is here.

“This guy is crazy,” the first President Bush blurts in a speech. “Environmental wacko,” shriek Rush and the amen chorus of the radio right.

But still Gore goes on, giving his slick, polished and highly entertaining slide-show and lecture, tilting at the windmills of American public thought and the cadre of businesses and their political lackeys who shout him down.

Guggenheim’s movie flirts with being a political campaign ad, as we see and hear the events and people who influenced Gore’s life, his personal trials and tests, and see him at ease on the family farm, where black angus cattle were raised, along with tobacco.

Until his older sister died of cancer, Gore’s senator father grew the golden leaf. He learned something. And the younger Gore’s lesson from this? We all can and should learn, and be willing to change our minds when the facts, as we understand them, change.

As difficult as it is to grasp, as determined as we are to say “We’ll worry about that later,” the consequences of procrastination are already upon us, he says.

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence, Gore shows us how the energy lobby continues to build doubt into news stories about global warming,doubt that doesn’t exist in science.

He shows shrinking glacier slides of what will soon be called “the park formerly named Glacier National Park.” He fills the screen with graphs, of carbon-dioxide emissions, rising temperatures and growing deserts.

And the parallels become obvious. Big tobacco spent millions and decades denying the obvious, sowing doubt, and hundreds of thousands, including his sister, died. Big oil, the movie asserts, is doing the same thing. And millions may die.

The politically savvy have already said of this film, “Where was this guy six years ago?” The cynical find the occasional place where the science is oversimplified to make a point. Gore has this presentation down, and it has cartoons (a Simpsons riff) and jokes and applause points. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t right.

“An Inconvenient Truth “is a celebration, in a way, of all our modern Jeremiahs. Isn’t it better, the film seems to suggest, to fret over this and take action than to do nothing and wring your sunburned hands over it later?

Political will, Gore suggests, is a renewable resource. Maybe he has rediscovered his. And maybe, we figure, after we’ve seen it, we should discover ours.

MPAA Rating:PG for mild thematic elements

Cast: Al Gore, Billy West

Credits:Directed by Davis Guggenheim, a Paramount Vantage release. Running time: 1:40

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2 Responses to Movie Review: “An Inconvenient Truth,” back on Netflix for the slow-to-catch-on crowd

  1. Sean H. says:

    Why mention Burke and not Sagan? COSMOS popularized it in 1980.

    • I don’t remember that from “Cosmos.” “The Greenhouse Effect” was all the rage in the early 80s. Did Carl actually predict it, because that was the whole POINT of the Burke program — laying it all out, on TV.

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