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An Inconvenient Truth

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG (For Mild Thematic Elements)

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Starring: Al Gore

Directed by: Davis Guggenheim

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Director/Executive Producer Davis Guggenheim, Audio Commentary with Producer Laurie David, Producer Lawrence Bender, Producer Scott Z. Burns and Producer Lesley Chilcott, An Update With Former Vice-President Al Gore, The Making Of An Inconvenient Truth, "I Need To Wake Up" Music Video By Melissa Etheridge

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (32 scenes)

Released: November 21st, 2006

 

Films with a political bent seem to be all the rage now, but out of the recent crop of movies (many of them done by eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll's company, Participant Productions), none of them is more urgent than "An Inconvenient Truth." Sure, while fictional narratives concerning real world issues give a lot to debate for many moviegoers and may inspire some in how they can get involved, "An Inconvenient Truth" is a direct cry for help. This film is different than the other political films as of late: it is non-fiction, and thus takes no liberties whatsoever. It really shows you what's going on out there with global warming, and constantly encorages not to just think about the repercussions of the situation - but to actually do something about it.

This is a good film, even if it is basically a filmed lecture (not to mention that it gives major product placement for Apple and Microsoft's Powerpoint). The thoughtful former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, discusses to an audience the dangers of global warming and what a problem it's become, and why (it's heartbreaking in the sense that we're partially polluting ourselves, as well as the influence of big business). But as dire as the situation might seem, it provides hope and suggests what the public can do about it.

A major part to why this film works as well as it does is that it's simple and direct. Gore provides a lot of evidence, and doesn't go into the controversies of global warming as myths - but rather the actualities and realities of it as an ordeal. The examples Gore present are rather compelling, and for those who are not into science, the facts may astound and shock you. If you're on the cusp of what's going on in the scientific community and have followed this situation in the past, I'm not sure how much of Gore's material will seem new to you. I am certain though that his words and examples on global warming will certainly provide strong reinforcement.

Leave it all to director (and executive producer) Davis Guggenheim some may assume to be a static-looking documentary in something that is rather visually arressting. As far as documentaries go, this is pretty cinematic. There are some pretty unique camera angles as Gore lectures, and the film clips and stills used to illustrate his points often pop out - be it something in the actual Powerpoint, or sweeping shots of the world that illustrate Gore's points. It's really well done and impressive, and there is a nice flow to the editing too. Oh, and bonus points for having Gore use a clip from the fantastic animated sitcom "Futurama." (Which makes sense, given that his daughter was a writer for the show and he guest-starred on it twice.)

While much of the movie is about global warming, throughout the film there are bits about Al Gore himself. It's nothing tremendously in-depth, but these are nice little breaks that let the viewer see a much more personal side and give the movie a little extra something - even though some may argue that these segments actually take away from the film's central focus. These scenes showcase Gore's childhood (where he partially grew up on a farm), one of his sons almost dying and his sister succumbing to lung cancer (yes, this movie is pretty anti-tobbaco too). And if you are a Bush fan or have conservative viewpoints, parts of the movie probably won't interest you: the current administration is mocked a bit, and there is a decent amount on Gore being upset over the 2000 election, and his thoughts on that debacle.

What also makes this movie quite engaging is Al Gore himself. A few years back you'd probably never hear "engaging" and "Al Gore" in a sentence, but what a turn around it is as Gore finally breaks out of his "boring mode" stereotype. Here is a side most of us have never really seen of Gore in the public eye: he's humorous, and above all, he's passionate. Sad to say, it really makes you wonder why this wasn't his persona during his 2000 presidential campaign - and if it was, maybe it'd push some of the public over the edge to vote for him. Like the bits on Gore's life, it also makes me wonder if this isn't an image makeover ploy. Given the visibility Gore has received from this movie, could a 2008 run be in the cards?

Regardless of your political affiliation, "An Inconvenient Truth" is still a must see documentary, especially in this day and age given that the threat of global warming is more timely than ever. Liberals and science lovers will surely eat this film up, but if making the planet a better place is at all of interest to you, then . If we all do our part and get involved, then maybe we can stop the dangers global warming brings. Hopefully this movie has inspired many to take an active voice. And hopefully many have heeded the advice that's put across at the end credits: "Encourage everyone you know to see this movie."

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "An Inconvenient Truth" looks quite good. There's not too much going on when Gore gives his lecture, but it looks really sharp: the black background is solid, Gore's fleshtone looks spot-on and the colors - namely Gore's clothes and his audiences clothes - look well saturated. The graphics themselves also look fine. But it's also the shots outside of Gore's lecture that looks rather nice: Gore in other settings, the wildlife and exteriors of America. Like the lecture, the appearance is all sharp and natural: good fleshtones, strong detail and great saturation of colors. The crisp and film-like presentation definitely draws the viewer in, as there's a realism to be had. There's no edge enhancement at all on the transfer, and if anything, it's a little grainy at times and there is some noise and slight edge halos to be had. Not that you'll be watching Gore's lecture to show off your home theater, but at least it's pleasing to the eye and its look is more-than-presentable.

 

There isn't much to say about the Dolby Digital 5.1 track: it basically puts you right there in Gore's lecture. Gore's voice is very clear and auidable, and there is some surround effects with Gore's audience laughing at his jokes. Fidelity is pretty high, and the dynamic range is good for what it is. The channels do come to life with the movie's few musical cues. While not totally impressive, they add energy. Most boisterous of all are the end credits, where Melissa Etheridge's song and its arrangement makes fine and pretty excellent use of the speakers. For what it is, this 5.1 track succeeds.

The disc also includes an English Dolby Surround track, plus English subtitles, English closed captions and subtitles in French and Spanish.

 

The disc features not one, but two commentaries. The first is an Audio Commentary with Director/Executive Producer Davis Guggenheim. This is a really solid track, and you might be surprised to learn there really is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that went into the making of this documentary. Guggenheim talks about the short time span of making the film, as it was all accomplished in less than 6 months. He talks about the location shooting, namely the wildlife footage that supplements Gore's lecture (it's kinda neat how some of the shots are actually of Gore's farm). Guggenheim talks about directing Gore, as well as making the lecture "interesting" (here's one part: making the graphics as interesting as possible). In general, there's just some really interesting fascinating on-the-set tidbits, which was a nice surprise given how low-key the production seems to be. It's a really well done commentary, and it's great how chatty and down-to-earth Guggenheim is and how much technical aspects there were to making this film - even if it really is a 90 minute lecture. For you budding documentary filmmakers out there, or those curious to see how so many aspects of this was put together, this is a must listen.

There's also the Audio Commentary with Producer Laurie David, Producer Lawrence Bender, Producer Scott Z. Burns and Producer Lesley Chilcott. The track sounds edited together (and yes, Laurie David is comedic genius' Larry David's wife), and also offers production tidbits on the making of this documentary. It talks about hiring Guggenheim, the producers involvement with Gore, name-dropping those who worked on the film, technical challenges, etc. Unfortunately, it's pretty basic and there's information that overlaps with Guggenheim's track - albeit maybe with slightly different, if irrelevant, information. Not a terrible listen, but not a must-listen either. Stick with the first commentary.

There's also a few video supplements. First up is An Update With Former Vice-President Al Gore. Surprisingly lenghty at 33 minutes, Gore discusses a lot of new evidence that has come up since the movie was shot and finished. Gore discusses Hurricane Katrina in a bit more detail, as well as new scientific studies concerning hurricanes and record-breaking temperatures around the world and their significant connections to global warming. Gore also makes connections to more and bigger families, and additional glacier earthquakes and wildfires. In some way, this is like a mini-sequel to the actual film and is a definite must watch. It's also in anamorphic widescreen to boot.

Also in anamorphic widescreen, and running about 11 minutes in length, is The Making Of An Incovenient Truth. Director Guggenheim is shown laying out and constructing the stage for the movie, and it's fascinating to see the film come together in a mere three days. With his vision in full force, Guggenheim helps put up the set and then meets with Gore and the producers and they basically rehearse. The featurette concludes with the actual filming of Gore's lecture, and some of the live directing. Short, but well-edited and quite interesting. And the brooding score during it makes it all seem so urgent!

Rounding out the DVD is the "I Need To Wake Up" Music Video by Melissa Etheridge. Strangely, this supplement is in non-anamorphic widescreen. It's a pretty decent video and nice song, and in some ways, acts as a summary of the movie with all the facts that flash on the screen.

Oh, and the package is pretty neat: it's thin cardboard that's made out of "100% post-consumer recycled materials." The inside encourages you to get active about global warming, and to share the DVD with others. Gogogo.

 

Certainly an important and timely film, everyone owes him or herself a viewing of "An Inconvenient Truth." The DVD is a nice extension of the film: the extras present the technical side in making a documentary like this, and Gore's update on global warming since the film was made is a must watch. Also, the transfer is excellent and the sound mix is good too. The movie is worthy of a purchase, and most certainly a rental. As if the media and other reviews didn't hammer the point in enough, here I'll go again: watch this movie, get others to see it and go out and try to make a difference. If we all make a small change or two in our lives, hopefully we can stop global warming in the near future.