An Inconvenient Truth is a film about the PowerPoint Al Gore has been giving for over a decade on the topic of climate change. While a film about a PowerPoint sounds incredibly unexciting, it is anything but. An Inconvenient Truth tells a story as gripping as a suspenseful thriller, with the dangers of a real life nightmare. Davis Guggenheim, alongside Participant Media, also use Gore’s human points to drive home the arguments and keep the audience engaged.
The overarching message of the film is that global warming is real and must be dealt with soon if we have any hope of reversing it. We must keep social context in mind while critiquing this film. Many of the points he makes may seem common knowledge now, but in 2006 popular opinion was much different. The media had created confusion and portrayed climate change as the delusion of hippies tree huggers. Gore refutes this idea with the fact out of more than 900 peer reviewed articles, zero denied the validity of global warming. It is made abundantly clear through graphs and facts that global warming is not just a natural cycle, another myth perpetrated by the media.
The conflict of the film is the inaction in fighting climate change despite the obvious evidence. Al Gore says, “I don’t really consider this a political issue, I consider it to be a moral issue. Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves, “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?” We have to hear that question from them, now.” This nonpartisan approach to the topic aides in establishing Gore’s credibility. It shows he has no vested interest in either political party by fighting for the cause.
An Inconvenient Truth is different in many ways to the film Home, despite sharing the same topic. The most striking difference is in the storytelling approach. Home relies on striking visuals and a smooth voice over to convey its message. By viewing the beauty and wonder of the world alongside the destruction, the authors are trying to shock you into action. An Inconvenient Truth on the other hand, involves a more analytical look at the subject. By mere reasoning and appealing to your moral side, it is attempting to persuade you into action.
Technically speaking, the visuals of An Inconvenient Truth aren’t impressive nor unimpressive. The film was shot well, which allows the visuals to get out of the way so that the viewer can focus on the story and content. What was very impressive was the PowerPoint presentation. It is full of moving graphics which serve as an attention grabber and makes his argument more persuasive. It is almost hard to call it a PowerPoint presentation because the visuals of it are so extravagant.
While a skeptic of global warming may see the film as biased, I don’t believe Davis Guggenheim was biased at all in his approach to the story. The film certainly is on the side of climate change being a real problem, but that is only because Al Gore believes in it and his argument for it is the crux of the film. The filmmaking itself was very impartial.
The only major critique I have for the film is the lack of solutions it presented. At the end of the film, I felt inspired to do something, but I wasn’t given a direct call to action. In the credits it was suggested that we do things like recycle and elect better politicians, but these don’t seem like concrete solutions. I must recognize that the purpose of this film was not to find solutions, but rather raise the issue of climate change. Like it is stated above, in 2006 the validity of global warming was even more contested and confusing than it is today. This film certainly succeeded if the goal was to raise awareness for the cause. One of the minor critiques I have for the film is some of the science was wrong or inaccurate. My first example is when Gore claimed “Within the decade, there will be no more snow on Kilimanjaro.” Today, in 2015, Mt. Kilimanjaro still holds snow. The second error is that he claimed you could see the change with your naked eye on the Antarctic ice cores after the U.S. Clean Air was passed. Scientists have stated that you cannot see it with the naked eye. This is a minor critique which does not take away from the overall message.
One of the most common critiques of this film by both my peers and other reviewers is that Al Gore’s personal story was unnecessary to the film. Some claim the film served as a commercial to a 2008 presidential run, which we now know it didn’t. I disagree with the critique that the personal vignettes were unnecessary. The personal vignettes help establishing Al Gore’s credibility. It shows how dedicated he is to the cause, how he has done the research and should be listened to. These excerpts turned an inspiring PowerPoint presentation into an ever more inspiring film that holds our attention until the end. Lastly, these vignettes strengthen his argument. In one example, he relates how his family didn’t stop growing tobacco until his sister’s death from lung cancer in the 1980s. He explains how this tragedy taught him how humans tend to not want to change what they’re doing until sometime goes terribly wrong. “It’s human nature to take time to connect the dots, but eventually there’s a day of reckoning.”
In conclusion, while this film had a few flaws in the science and could be seen as an alarmist film, I enjoyed it. I agree completely with the message and the urgency of global warming. It is a gigantic threat and needs to be addressed immediately, not in twenty or thirty years as some politicians are saying. Ten years later, I believe we have not lived up to Al Gore’s hopes in generating the political will to make the change in politics. I’m not entirely sure how we are going to find the political will, but taking this course is a great first step in answering this question for myself.
Watch the trailer below: