On the face of it, this is the least appealing film in history. A failed politico, and an American one at that, preaching to the world about global warming with the aid of PowerPoint. Over an hour-and-a-half of tedious tree-hugging and over-earnest emoting. And all in a transparent and breathtakingly cynical attempt to worm his way back into the electorate’s affections. Why not just nail your eyeballs to a freshly whitewashed wall and save yourself 99 minutes of hippy harping?
Amazingly, however, this environmental call to arms is not just revelatory but hugely entertaining to boot. Despite Gore’s reputation as a man so dull he makes dishwater look thrilling, he presents his arguments without being patronising, boring or dry. He mixes in jokes and even a clip from Futurama to keep you going between the beautiful but terrifying pictures of melting glaciers and disappearing forests. And the science is laid out flawlessly — unlike some environmentalists, Gore never cosily assumes that we’re with him in accepting the theory, and instead lays out the evidence piece by comprehensible piece to build to a conclusion that’s hard to fault. He also highlights the vast gap between the scientific acceptance of the theory of global warming (near total) and the media acceptance (about 50 per cent), suggesting that this film is a necessary counterweight to the mainstream media’s sluggish response to the issues rather than a tedious recap of what we already know.
With the skill of a seasoned political operator — but none of the cynicism you might expect of a man so narrowly defeated in the most bitter political battle of modern times — Gore first scares the bejesus out of you and then offers ways to change the future, leaving you with a sense of optimism in the face of a global threat.
But despite his clear agenda, Gore is careful not to turn this film into a party-political broadcast for Al Gore or the US Democratic party. He presents saving the planet as a moral, cross-party, worldwide issue rather than casting stones at the current US administration (despite the fact that Bush’s environmental policies, let’s face it, make him a sitting duck). The closest he gets to political commentary is to rhetorically and pointedly ask, “Is it possible we should prepare for any threats other than terrorism?”, and to remark with commendably little comment on the appointment of former oil-industry employees to environmental protection posts.
That’s not to say that the film is flawless. An Inconvenient Truth is conveniently soft on its examination of the Clinton-Gore administration’s less than glowing record on the environment, trumpeting Gore’s achievements in office rather than, say, the laws which led to an explosion in the popularity of gas-guzzling SUVs. What’s more, this does at times feel like a Gore hagiography — some of the interludes about his personal history feel less than relevant, more designed to elicit sympathy for the man than the cause.
But it’s ultimately hard to fault a film that overcomes your initial cynicism and makes you not only want to make the world a better place but convinces you that you can do something about it. The film not only overcomes the fact that it’s preachy, but makes its preachiness a virtue, so that you’ll leave evangelised, converted to a new religion by a charismatic preacher who finally found his calling.