The 11th Hour

Doc presents viewer with reams of depressing data, loads of hand-wringing about the state of humanity.

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.

The 11th Hour

  • Production: A Warner Independent Pictures release of an Appian Way/Greenhorn, Tree Media Group production. Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Leila Conners Petersen, Chuck Castleberry, Brian Gerber. Executive producers, Adam Lewis, Pierre Senizergues, Irmelin DiCaprio, Doyle Brunson, Al Decarolis. Directed by Leila Conners Petersen, Nadia Conners. Written by Leonardo DiCaprio, Leila Conners Peterson, Nadia Conners.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Peter Youngblood Hills (16mm), Andrew Rowland (35mm), Brian Knappenberger (interview photography); editors, Pietro Scalia, Luis Alvarez y Alvarez; music, Jean Pascal Beintus, Eric Avery; music supervisor, Avery; production designer, Nadia Conners; sound, Dennis Haggerty; supervising sound editor, Richard King; re-recording mixers, Ron Barlett, D.M. Hemphill; associate producer, Stephan McGuire; assistant director, Bettina Godi. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings), May 19, 2007. Running time: 95 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Ray Anderson, Kenny Ausubel, Janine Benvus, Tzeporah Berman, Leser Brown, Tim Carmichael, Theo Colborn, Herman Daly, Wade Davis, Peter deMenocal, Brock Dolman, Sylvia Earle, Rick Fedrizzi, Gloria Flora, Omar Freilla, Nathan Gardels, Michel Gelobter, Leo Gerard, Mikhail Gorbachev, Thom Hartmann, Paul Hawken, Stephen Hawking, Richard Heinberg, James Hillman, Jeremy Jackson, Wes Jackson, Tom Linzey, Andy Lipkis, Oren Lyons, Wangari Maathai, Jerry Mander, Bruce Mau, William McDonough, Bill McKibben, Rev. James Parks Morton, Wallace J. Nichols, David Orr, Mathew Petersen, Stuart Pimm, Sandra Postel, Andy Revkin, Stephen Schneider, Paolo Soleri, Paul Stamets, David Suzuki, Joseph Tainter, Betsy Taylor, John Todd, Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Peter Warshall, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Andy Weil, Diane Wilson, James Woolsey. Narrator: Leonardo DiCaprio.