An Inconvenient Truth



Release date: Nov. 21, 2006

A documentary from 2006 about both the message and the messenger, "An Inconvenient Truth," has been released by Paramount (retail $29.99) in a skinny, Earth-friendly jacket. The bulk of the 96-minute film is a recording of a Powerpoint lecture given by former Vice President Albert Gore about the increasingly worrisome encroachment of the Greenhouse Effect through the unnaturally high levels of carbon dioxide mankind has been releasing into the atmosphere in the past several decades. The film's format is very similar to a rock music concert program, cutting between Gore's act (shot on a soundstage with a studio audience) and behind-the-scenes shots of Gore commuting to other talks (always with his Apple computer tucked under his arm) or speaking about his background (he acknowledges the irony and learning curve of having grown up, in part, on a tobacco farm). The difference between his stage persona and his camera persona is intriguing, as, perhaps in response to his audiences, he starts ratcheting up his accent and self-depreciating homilies in front of a crowd. It's a shame he didn't perfect the character 10 years earlier. One of the most fascinating aspects of the film not directly related to the environment is how he tried to achieve political solutions to these problems and often came up short because of the knee-jerk reactions from opposing interests. Many actors try to become politicians, but here is a politician who has discovered that he can accomplish more for his cause as an actor. In any case, there has been a lot of nitpicking his statistics, and his interpretations of those statistics, but you could take the movie as a whole, dismiss any hour of footage within it as invalid, and the remaining facts and conclusions would still be inescapably compelling. The ice caps are melting, extremes in weather are becoming more severe, and it is man's endeavors that are either causing or severely accelerating these conditions. People are going to die.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 1.78:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback. The color transfer is slick (when the lecture incorporates film footage, that footage appears directly on the screen) and the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound is centered but smoothly crafted. There are optional French and Spanish subtitles, an 11-minute production featurette (Gore seems stiffer during his "at ease" moments, such as when he is admiring the stage set that has been constructed for him, than when the camera is on him directly) and a Melissa Etheridge music video. Gore also supplies a 32-minute addendum to the film, containing loads of updates and new revelations that have appeared in the year between shooting the film and preparing the DVD, all of which add to the inescapable nature of his conclusions.

There are two commentary tracks by the film's creators, both of which underscore and embellish Gore's message, but also supply worthwhile explanations of how the show came into being, how specific choices for style and content were made, what it was like working with Gore (who is apparently powered by some kind of independent energy source himself, as they could barely keep up with him), and go beyond the scope of the film to at least suggest approaches for solutions. As the director, Davis Guggenheim, puts it, "You do become devastated by this and you worry about it and you watch the movie and say, 'This is so important,' and then you're pulled into the exigencies of your life. You gotta feed your kids, you gotta show up to work, and part of the human nature is -- it almost feels better to live in denial. That's the challenge, to face this stuff."

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