True to its doom-laden title, global-warming doc “The 11th Hour” presents the viewer with reams of depressing data, loads of hand-wringing about the woeful state of humanity and, finally, some altogether fascinating ideas about how to go about solving the climate crisis. Co-produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this latest exercise in celebrity eco-activism lacks the personal touch that helped “An Inconvenient Truth” go green at the box office, but auds might warm to its layered insights and polished presentation, given careful nurturing by Warner Independent and effective showcasing as an educational tool.
DiCaprio and first-time helmer sisters Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners scripted the film’s text — an earnest, sometimes clunkily verbose set of warnings about the dire state of the planet, which DiCaprio more or less recites at the camera. Narration is supplemented by a rapidly edited flood of devastating images that show not just meteorological phenomena such as tidal waves and Hurricane Katrina, but also shots of more basic signifiers of human greed — deforestation, a bloody slaughterhouse, fishermen draining the ocean of its wildlife and rush-hour traffic in downtown Los Angeles.
Docu’s thesis, that mankind’s insensitivity to the environment, consumption of limited resources and over-reliance on fossil fuels will soon make the planet uninhabitable for future generations, should by now (hopefully) come as nothing new to viewers.
But the dizzying assemblage of talking heads (among them Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev, science reporter Andy Revkin and heads of environmental orgs such as Lester Brown, Tim Carmichael and Wes Jackson), all well-spoken and at times prone to philosophizing, turn “The 11th Hour” into a ruminative essay on what it means to be human in a scarce world.
Their unanimous conclusion is that human beings can’t view themselves as a superior species — a very subtle dig at the traditional (biblical) view that man was meant to have dominion over the earth and all other life forms. Ironically, pic’s most creative solution (whose proponents include architects and designers like Bruce Mau and John Todd) is to integrate eco-friendly structures and renewable energy sources into buildings and cityscapes, the very fabric of urban life. Talk about intelligent design.
Jean Pascal Beintus and Eric Avery provide solid musical accompaniment; despite their fluent cutting, the editors would have done well to slow down and linger over some of the pic’s more striking images. Tech credits are quite pro.