Leonardo DiCaprio's Green Gamble: two views of the 11th Hour.

Author:Clark, Brian
Position:COMMENTARY - Movie review

Thumbs Up: The 11th Hour Needs to Be Seen

"We don't know where the warming will go, but the worst case would be like our sister planet Venus, where it is 250 degrees Celsius, and where it rains sulfuric acid," intoned Stephen Hawking, one of the world's greatest scientists, in his computer-generated voice. The dire warning set much of the tone of the new documentary film The 11th Hour, which opened August 17.

The 11th Hour is presented, narrated, co-produced and co-written by superstar green celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio. The multi-hyphenate actor had enlisted Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen, with whom he had worked on a couple of short green films, to direct the epic 11th Hour for Tree Media Group and Warner Brothers.

Leo's film is a departure from the hip, edgy, narrative-driven docs that have been so hot the past few years, and that have been widely credited with resurrecting a largely ignored sector of American cinema. Don't go to The 11th Hour expecting to see Super Size Me, Sicko, This Film Is Not Yet Rated or the latest from the brilliant Errol Morris. The 11th Hour has a traditional, "serious" structure of interviews and footage that plays like a PBS or Discovery Channel special, albeit one that is very well made.

Leo takes viewers through a sober, hard-hitting journey of the ravages of climate change, and touches on other human-induced threats facing our world. The film plays as sequences of dramatic, tightly edited vignettes of environmental damage and hope, intercut with sit-down interviews with leading green thinkers, the roster of which reads like the speakers at a Bioneers conference (included is Bioneers founder Kenny Ausubel). The interviews are intimate, with stark backgrounds in a style that calls to mind Charlie Rose (which, incidentally, now has a great amount of material from past shows archived online).

Ominous, ambient tones play through most of The 11th Hour, heightening the sense of foreboding and seriousness. In this way the soundtrack is similar to the recent nonfiction masterpieces The Corporation and In the Realms of the Unreal.

What Is The Message?

Not content with merely addressing climate change (as if that issue weren't big enough!), The 11th Hour brings together experts on sustainable design, biomimicry, consumption, air and water quality, environmental justice, renewable energy, species loss and even religious thought.

For example, it was pointed out by leading green thinker David Suzuki that human...

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