It’s been eleven years since AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006), the Oscar-winning movie which featured Al Gore as the spokesperson for saving the environment, hit the theaters.
Gore used that film as a platform to awaken the world to the dangers of global warming. The movie was an informative and rousing call to action. It was 2006, in the latter stages of the George W. Bush years, and there was hope that perhaps this environmental movement would take hold.
Now comes AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER 2017), the sequel where Al Gore is still trying to convince people that the most important issue on earth is in fact saving the earth. Since the first movie, the Bush years have ended, the Barack Obama administration has come and gone, and now we have Donald Trump. In terms of the United States taking a leadership role on environmental issues and global warming, with the arrival of Trump, things have gotten worse since 2006. Much worse.
In fact, even though the election of Donald Trump doesn’t factor into the movie until the final few minutes, there is a general sense of exhaustion and despair around Gore throughout the movie, as if he is tired of fighting a losing battle. Gore hasn’t given up, not by a long shot, and this film like the first is a call to action, a call to get people on board with saving the environment. But still you can see it in Gore’s eyes, a sense that the powers that be are going to resist and continue to resist for a long time. There’s also some disbelief on his part that people just can’t see the urgency of what he is talking about, that they simply aren’t buying what he’s selling, and for Gore, that lack of interest is sinful.
This feeling is best summed up in a scene late in the movie where Gore is watching the results of the 2016 election, and he quips that a famous boxer once said, “Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the face.” Gore then sighs and pretty much says, “it’s back to the drawing board.”
Don’t get me wrong. Gore never says he’s giving up, nor hints that he’s going to. In fact, he says the opposite, that in spite of all the adversity, you have to keep going to outlast the other guy. But you can see the frustration in his eyes all the same.
AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER uses news footage to debunk criticisms of statements Gore made in the first movie. For example, in the first film, Gore showed a graphic that due to global warming flood waters would rise in New York City reaching the site of the World Trade Center memorial. He was criticized and laughed at for making such a statement, yet this movie provides video footage of the massive flood in New York City several years ago in which water did indeed reach the World Trade Center site.
Gore travels to the streets of Miami, streets that are dealing with flooding on a regular basis, because as Gore explains, as the glaciers melt, the water has to go somewhere. It’s going into the oceans, and sea levels are rising. Gore also travels to the polar ice caps and captures on film the melting glaciers.
A large portion of the movie deals with the Paris Climate Agreement, and shows Gore working behind the scenes. At the time, India did not want to sign the agreement, as they balked at the idea of using renewable energy sources like wind and solar instead of fossil fuels because systems for these new cleaner energy sources were simply not in place. It wasn’t a practical transition for India to make. Gore works behind the scenes connecting a solar company with the Indian government to help them go solar, and eventually India changed its mind. The film then goes on to show the nations of the world ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement.
Of course, the celebration was short-lived. Soon after being elected, Donald Trump declared that the United States was pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, calling global warming a hoax and saying that focusing on environment issues was a monumental waste of time.
With Gore as its guide, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER delivers its message and makes its point, but directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk don’t really make full use of their editing powers. The bulk of the film features Al Gore talking. And talking. And talking. And although Gore is truly passionate about his work, his words alone lack the potency to drive the point home that combating global warming must be done now, that the danger is imminent and very real. The film could have used more dramatic and telling footage.
Sure, some of news footage is dramatic, like the flooded streets in Florida, but oddly most of the film is low-key. It fails to deliver that sense of urgency. Like Gore, the entire documentary seems to be wading through a sense of frustration.
Also, with the film focusing solely on Al Gore, other world players are only seen fleetingly, folks like John Kerry and President Obama, for instance.
Nonetheless, Gore is right when he calls this issue as big as the civil rights movement. He says people know when things are right and when things are wrong, and to ignore the science which states that the earth is in trouble, is flat-out wrong.
That being said, this is not a very impactful movie, and as such, it’s doubtful it will convert many naysayers into environmental activists. And that’s something that is definitely missing in AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER, that feeling that this movie will make a difference.
It would be nice if in a few years Gore stars in a third movie, making this an INCONVENIENT trilogy, and in that film he’s able to boast that people heeded the call to action, hereby ending the global warming epidemic. That would be sweet, indeed. But I’m not holding my breath.
Fixing the environment means change, dramatic change, and for most people, that’s something that is simply too inconvenient.