Review: ‘Who Killed The Electric Car?’

Oil companies aren't the only ones profiting from a spike in prices at the gas pump. It's likely also to boost the prospects of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" a likable if partisan post-mortem on the now-defunct auto.

Oil companies aren’t the only ones profiting from a spike in prices at the gas pump. It’s likely also to boost the prospects of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” a likable if partisan post-mortem on the now-defunct auto. Writer-helmer Chris Paine leaves no doubt he’s a huge fan of the car nor who he considers the bad guys to be in this tale of a technological dream deferred. But a bipartisan attitude and an optimistic conclusion (added after its Sundance screening as a work-in-progress) give the doc a chance at a wide aud and media coverage for its June 28 rollout.

With Martin Sheen’s canned-sounding voice as narrator, pic calls for an alternative to the smog-spewing automobile, particularly given the link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. GM launched research in 1987 for a mass-produced electric car, with engineer Alan Cocconi designing the power system that allowed the vehicle — the EV-1 — terrific acceleration.

According to Paine’s report, the car’s beginning was in California, the first state to pass legislation requiring automakers to make a portion of their future fleets with zero-emission engines. The EV-1 fan club ranges from Mel Gibson to the pic’s hero, Chelsea Sexton, who worked on the EV-1 team, is now a vigorous activist for electric cars, and is seen throughout the doc leading protests against her former employer.

The film recalls — though never entirely explains — the efforts by manufacturers of e-cars to both make them and squelch them. But a finger is also pointed at government for failing to enforce its original mandate.

Story slips into a wistful mood as owners recount how their beloved leased EV-1s were taken back by GM, and then found crushed and dumped in the Nevada desert. A checklist of “guilty” and “not guilty” parties is included, but some will take issue with who’s on the roster.

Closing reel tries to stick a happy face onto the film, with ex-CIA chief James Woolsey urging auto and energy alternatives along with the geopolitical reasons behind them. Still, no amount of last-reel optimism will cool the anger of progressive-minded auds.

Vid-to-film transfer is fair, and talking head segments pile up like a bad day on the 405. A zippy pace is maintained by editors Michael Kovalenko and Chris A. Peterson.

Who Killed The Electric Car?



A Sony Pictures Classics release of an Electric Entertainment presentation of a Dean Devlin/Plinyminor production in association with Papercut Films. Produced by Jessie Deeter. Executive producers, Dean Devlin, Tavin Marin Titus, Richard D. Titus. Co-producers, Kathy Weiss, Rachel Olschan. Co-executive producers, Kearie Peak, Mark Roskin. Directed, written by Chris Paine.


Camera (EFilm color, DV-to-35mm), Thaddeus Wadleigh; editors, Michael Kovalenko, Chris A. Peterson; music, Michael Brook; music supervisors, Peter Afterman, Margaret Yen; sound (Dolby Digital), Alex Lamm, James Ridgley, Jayme Roy, Bill Stefanacci; supervising sound editor, Jerry Gilbert; researcher, Sheraz Sadiq; consulting producer, Alex Gibney; associate producers, Natalie Artin, Jeff Steele. Reviewed at Sony Studios screening room, Culver City, May 3, 2006. (In Sundance Film Festial, Tribeca Film Festival -- Discovery.) MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 MIN.


Dave Barthmuss, Jim Boyd, Alec N. Brooks, Alan Cocconi, John R. Dabels, Phyllis Diller, Colette Divine, Tom Everhart, S. David Freeman, Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Mel Gibson, Greg Hanssen, Peter Horton, Doug Korthof, Alan C. Lloyd, Alan Lowenthal, Edward H. Murphy, Ralph Nader, Dan Neil, Linda Nicholes, Stanford and Iris Ovshinsky, Alexandra Paul, Bill Reinert, Wally Rippel, Paul Roberts, Joseph J. Romm, Paul Scott, Chelsea Sexton, Jananne Sharpless, J. Karen Thomas, John R. Wallace, R. James Woolsey, Bill Wylam.
Narrator: Martin Sheen.

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