What's it rated? PG
What's it worth? Matinee
Where's it showing? The Palm
Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk direct this follow-up documentary to the Oscar-wining An Inconvenient Truth (2006), which exposed the threat of global climate change. This time around, the filmmakers document the progress made in tackling climate change over the last decade as well as former Vice President Al Gore's efforts to persuade global leaders to invest in renewable energy. Former President George W. Bush, John Kerry, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, and in archival footage, former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump, also appear.
This is an important movie with an important message, and within it you'll find emotionally charged moments of triumph and despondent moments of hopelessness. What you won't find is an argument powerful enough to persuade climate change deniers.
In one scene, we see archival footage of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) grilling Gore about climate change in an official Senate inquiry. Inhofe keeps interrupting Gore until Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) intervenes. Finally allowed to speak, Gore laconically says he wishes he knew what he could say to persuade Inhofe and those like him that climate change is real and imperative, but ultimately his opposition is intractable.
In short, as powerful as this film is, it's preaching to the choir. Those who believe climate change is the essential issue of our time will find it compelling viewing. Climate change deniers will find nothing here to fracture their fossilized thinking. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence and obvious signs in weather patterns and natural disasters, the deniers will continue to embrace their ignorance.
The film itself can sometimes move slowly, for instance when Gore is shown giving his activist training seminars to likeminded eco-warriors or talking on the phone to politicians, but it becomes very compelling when at the Paris Climate Conference we see Gore working behind the scenes to get India on board. As the Indian representative argues, why should his country be forced to deal with the proposed regulations when countries such as the U.S. grew their economy on fossil fuels unimpeded for 150 years? Gore, forever the problem solver, works to get India access to solar technology on the cheap as well as low-interest loans for solar to motivate them to sign the Paris Climate Accord.
One thing the film does very well is offer a candid look at Al Gore today—what drives him, how his personality is part and parcel of his persuasive powers, and how his fundamental decency as a human being is reflected in his interactions with others. Yes, you could argue the film is more interested in lionizing Gore than persuading the deniers, but it's not for lack of trying.
The film makes a valiant effort to simplify the sometimes dizzyingly complicated science behind climate change, but perhaps more importantly, it offers a primer on how to engage citizen activists at the grassroots. Gore seems to understand that without the populace behind this fight, it's doomed.
Ultimately, the film is upbeat. Gore is indefatigable! That's good. Because in the face of venal corporate interests and corrupt political opposition, our planet needs a warrior like Gore, even if he's only armed with a cell phone, a slide show, and the truth. (98 min.)