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A review of An Inconvenient Truth (NR)


Al Gore, far from Washington, ponders the planet.
  • Al Gore, far from Washington, ponders the planet.

*An Inconvenient Truth (NR)

Kimball's Twin Peak
Though An Inconvenient Truth has been heralded as Al Gore's documentary on global warming, it is more accurately director Davis Guggenheim's documentary about Gore's journey and life mission: to halt and change the course of global climate change.

Since losing the presidential election to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore has traveled the world, presenting what he calls his "slide show" to thousands, making the case for what he considers the central moral challenge of the 21st century: reversing ever-accelerating trends of pollution and carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere that, scientists agree, have hastened the heating of the Earth.

At the film's center is Gore's remarkable lecture, which uses computerized visual aids to illustrate the science of global warming to audience members who, like me, might otherwise be daunted by the technicalities. Those expecting a barrage of images aimed at depressing or shocking viewers into action will be surprised to find that Gore prefers rational inquiry and provides elegant explanations of the research. Though discussions of the effects of global warming can be overwhelming about as much fun as a periodontal cleaning at the dentist this one works for its cool and sober estimate of the facts.

Inserted throughout are vignettes from Gore's personal and political life, which many critics have found distracting segments on his son's brush with death, his sister's death by lung cancer, his 2000 presidential loss, meanderings across his family's Tennessee farm. Guggenheim's purpose, it seems, is to draw a portrait of a leader, asking what are the events that have driven him and formed his core principles. If Gore weren't so self-effacing throughout the film, these episodes might come across as preachy or maudlin. But the former senator and vice president has acquired an ease and sense of humor since he lost the White House to George W. Bush, and his likeability factor infuses these segments with an amiable, even affectionate tinge. We walk away feeling we know the man, not just the message.

Regarding naysayers who deride global-warming findings or who are entrenched in industries that fear action on global warming would negatively affect their bottom lines, Gore is candid but never snide. He simply discredits them with data and solid footing in the facts. It's particularly moving to hear him talk about the first time he brought his case to the Congress. "I had such faith in our self-government," he says. "I thought the Congress would be shocked. They weren't."

Now he's taking his case directly to the people, and with any luck, grassroots efforts to replace polluting industries with green solutions will trump political slaves of corporate business interests. Gore urges us not to be overwhelmed by the problem, but to understand "we have everything we need [to reverse the trend of global warming], save political will."

And political will in America, he reminds us forcefully, is a renewable resource.

See this film. Take your families. Buy the DVD and show it to your classrooms. Go to the Web site,, and find out how to become actively involved in the solution. An Inconvenient Truth is, ultimately, not an apocalyptic horror show but a call to action, and a damn effective one.

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