The 11th Hour Movie Review

Since the inevitable comparisons have already been made between last year's Al Gore lecture on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, and The 11th Hour, Leonardo DiCaprio's dissertation on looming environmental catastrophe, let's go ahead and make one ourselves: The 11th Hour is better. While DiCaprio's film benefits in some ways from following in the wake of Gore's film -- namely, it doesn't feel the need to prove whether or not human behavior, like adding massive amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere, is having an adverse effect on the planet -- it cannot be seen merely as a me-too follow-up. Although starting on a too-obvious note with the familiar style of horrific destruction montage that usually accompanies evening news reports (titled something like, "Is Earth Angry With Us?"), the film quickly regains its footing and delivers its (at times revolutionary) message in a skilled, learned, and accessible manner. To make an obvious point, Al Gore delivered his filmed lecture with the same kind of gentle, careful assurance that characterized his 2000 presidential campaign. By comparison, The 11th Hour, in which DiCaprio takes a conspicuous backseat to all his assembled experts and only pops up occasionally for a few lines of narration to bring us to the next major subject, has little such compunction. This is a film that wraps its message around a hurled brick.

The 11th Hour takes its title from a couple of themes which are woven throughout, both the extremely short duration of humanity's time on the planet when compared to the Earth's total history, and also the extraordinarily short amount of time remaining in which we as a society have to effect change. In one of the film's more pungent lines, we're told that humanity faces a "convergence of crises," many of which have by that point already been enumerated in graphic detail. The omnibus of threats laid out by the cavalcade of researchers and activists (as well as less expected types like ex-CIA director James Woolsey) brought forward by the filmmakers are legion, and whereas most viewers are well aware of them through a variety of different sources, rarely have they been woven together into such an all-encompassing portrait of a species run amok.

Instead of zeroing in on individual threats, whether it's melting ice caps and increasingly violent weather patterns brought on by climate change or the dangers posed by potentially mortally polluted and warmed oceans, the film wraps them all up in a narrative that says, in essence, the way we live now is wrong. So the message is something quite a bit more radical than pushing carbon offsets or hybrid cars, but rather reorienting people's lives. Instead of emphasizing how easy it is for people to green their habits (driving less, better insulating their homes, etc.) the assembled experts form a warning chorus that says humanity must learn to start valuing the earth before we kill it. The point is made quite clearly that the economic system, as currently structured, since it places no value on anything but unending growth, is inherently dangerous to the natural order of things, and will doom us all if not corrected.

The 11th Hour can make that sort of radical statement, being the vanity project of a Hollywood star who can afford to do this sort of thing. But it seems less radical the more its eco-populist message sinks in. Because what rational person, faced with none other than Stephen Hawking postulating that if things continue on their present course, Earth could well end up an arid Venus-like planet with sulfuric acid for rain, would think that anything less than immediate change was needed to avert such a thing?

It's the scariest and most worthwhile Nova episode you'll ever see.

DiCaprio in the dark.

Cast & Crew

Director : Nadia Conners, Leila Conners Petersen

Producer : , , Nadia Conners, Leila Conners Petersen, , Chuck Castleberry


The 11th Hour Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 2007


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