Just over a decade ago, environmentalist and former-Vice President Al Gore made a movie about climate change. Shocking and gripping in equal measure, An Inconvenient Truth was a smash hit. It broke box office records in the US, received three standing ovations at Sundance film festival and won two Academy awards, the only documentary ever to do so. More importantly, it laid bare the effects of global warming to millions of people. Now, 11 years on and its Shakespearean hero is back on the big screen.
Sure he’s a little older, a little plumper and a lot greyer, but the star of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power is as magnetic as ever and the film revolves around him. We watch as he stalks the corridors of power, brokers deals with India and treks the Arctic with speccy Swiss scientists. He even narrowly avoids terrorism, giving an emotional speech when trapped in Paris during the 2015 attacks. If there’s one big difference this time, it’s that we get much less PowerPoint. Whereas An Inconvenient Truth was mostly Gore lecturing in front of a screen, its follow-up focuses more on his actions away from the crowds. This could seem like a vanity project, but Gore’s enthusiasm and total commitment appear genuine. It doesn’t feel like he’s doing it for an ego-boost.
Largely, it’s more of the distressing same, but updated. Animated sea-level projections are replaced by footage of flash floods. Natural disasters are linked to carbon levels. Forest fires are rooted in drought. To an extent, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power is one big, fat ‘I told you so’, but with none of the satisfaction. Shot mostly before last year’s election, the movie was post-edited to include Trump’s decision to take the US out of the Paris Agreement — a landmark global commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Gore argues this won’t change anything, but it gives the film a gloomy ending.
Still, there are positives to be taken. Renewable energy has skyrocketed since 2006 and the cost of wind farms and solar panels has plummeted. Even fat cat conservatives in the bible belt are embracing the technology. Gore visits a few, posing for pictures with the enemy. What this demonstrates is that however big the obstacle, there’s a clever way to get around it. And Gore is desperate to show progress in this vital, hugely relevant documentary. But is it too little too late?
- Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
- Release date: August 18, 2017