The 11th Hour

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This review was written for the theatrical release of "The 11th Hour." 

NEW YORK -- "The 11th Hour" is an impassioned ecology-themed documentary that ultimately is more rewarding for informational than cinematic reasons. Produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film has the unfortunate effect of making the multiple-Oscar-nominated star seem somehow less charismatic than Al Gore. But while many might accuse it of preaching to the converted -- at least in terms of the audiences most likely to see it -- this is yet another important wake-up call that deserves respect.

Unfortunately, the vitally important message of first-time filmmakers Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners is diluted by their rather unimaginative approach. It essentially consists of having dozens of talking heads delivering thoughtful and often apocalyptic commentary, interrupted by footage of ecological disasters (Katrina, etc.) presented "Koyaanisqatsi"-style. There also are portentous direct addresses to the camera by DiCaprio, but the frequent shots of the actor staring mournfully off into the distance at significant locations are less evocative than silly.

Despite its static presentation, the film is nonetheless engrossing thanks to the articulate and often fascinating commentary provided by such figures as university professors, scientists, environmentalists, journalists, such familiar faces as Stephen Hawking, former CIA director James Woolsey and even Mikhail Gorbachev (truly a renaissance man among Russian politicos).

While the film is necessarily downbeat in its accumulation of significant warning signs that the planet is indeed on the verge of environmental disaster, it thankfully also devotes a good portion of its running time to explicating numerous technological solutions to the dilemma. In the end, though, its main point is that what's truly needed in the way of change will only come through political means.

Jean-Pascal Beintus' score, augmented by songs from such bands as Sigur Ros, Cocteau Twins and Coldplay, provides suitably dire musical accompaniment.

THE 11TH HOUR
Warner Independent Pictures
Applian Way/GreenHour/Tree Media Group
Credits:
Director-screenwriters: Leila Conners Petersen, Nadia Conners
Producers: Leonardo DiCaprio, Chuck Castleberry, Brian Gerber, Pierre Andre Senizergues
Executive producers: Adam Lewis, Irmelin DiCaprio, Doyle Brunson
Director of photography: Andrew Rolands
Production designer: Nadia Conners
Music: Jean-Pascal Beintus
Co-producer: Leila Conners Petersen
Editors: Pietro Scalia, Luis Alvarez y Alvarez
Narrator: Leonardo DiCaprio
Running time -- 91 minutes
MPAA rating: PG

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