×

Switch

Sidestepping the usual eco-docu strategy (i.e., set up a desperate, end-of-the-world scenario and then yank the viewer in off the ledge), the global-energy movie "Switch" takes a far less hysterical route. Helmer Harry Lynch's method is a bit like an alternating current: Explore one energy source at a time, examine its pros and cons, forecast its future effectiveness, and give a rational evaluation of where the world is heading. It isn't sensational, but it is intelligent, and should be a draw to auds with green thoughts in scattered theatrical play.

With:
With: Scott Tinker, Steve Hedge, Steve Koonin, Ernie Moniz, Richard Lamotte.

Sidestepping the usual eco-docu strategy (i.e., set up a desperate, end-of-the-world scenario and then yank the viewer in off the ledge), the global-energy movie “Switch” takes a far less hysterical route. Helmer Harry Lynch’s method is a bit like an alternating current: Explore one energy source at a time, examine its pros and cons, forecast its future effectiveness, and give a rational evaluation of where the world is heading. It isn’t sensational, but it is intelligent, and should be a draw to auds with green thoughts in scattered theatrical play.

Many of those viewers will likely be familiar with the rest of the recent eco-movie catalogue, so they’ll know where producer, co-writer and host Scott Tinker, a geologist and professor at the U. of Texas, Austin, either differs with or ignores the conclusions of other filmmakers. The content of Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated anti-fracking film “Gasland” and the wind-turbine terrors found in Laura Israel’s “Windfall” go all but unremarked; Tinker seems far more favorably inclined than many toward those particular sources of energy, and the words “strip mining” are never heard.

At same time, Tinker declines to give any alternative energy source a wholesale endorsement. The essence of “Switch” is that nothing in the offing — biofuels, geothermal energy, so-called “clean coal,” electric cars, wind power — will, by itself, solve the supply and pollution problems caused by non-renewable sources; the future will be an amalgam that requires creative thinking.

Tinker’s tack is to assess each power plant, oil refinery and wind field by how many people it would serve. It’s a sobering tactic: As 750,000-barrel oil tankers glide across the screen, we’re told that, given that Americans use 20 million barrels a day, each of those ships will satisfy one-30th of the nation’s daily need, or about 45 minutes of power. And it gets worse as the sources get greener.

Tinker and Lynch assemble a likable, highly knowledgeable roster of experts, including former Undersecretary of Energy Steve Koonin; Ernie Moniz, director of MIT’s Energy Initiative; coal innovator Steve Hedge; biofuel farmer Richard Lamotte; and various pioneers in non-petroleum technologies. “Switch” is ostensibly about the transition the world needs to make from old fuels to new, especially in light of the exploding economies of India and China — countries that, as everyone here readily admits, will have no inclination to stem pollution as they strive for First World status.

Ultimately, the film is no more optimistic about the world’s energy outlook than any other docu, but it’s considerably more honest, and manages to be quite effective without saying, “boo.”

Tech credits are tops, particularly the seamless editing by Yusef Svacina and David Rosenblatt, and the often beautiful photography of Lynch, Wilson Waggoner and their team of cameramen.

Popular on Variety

Switch

Documentary

Production: An Arcos Films presentation. Produced by Harry Lynch, Scott Tinker. Directed by Harry Lynch. Written by Lynch, Scott Tinker.

Crew: Camera (color), Lynch, Wilson Waggoner; editors, Yusef Svacina, David Rosenblatt; music, Brian Satterwhite; sound, Alex Herrera, Benoit Ouvrard, Gunnar Meidell, Jose Arrufat, Ami Ben, Sam Kashefi, Michael Svensson, Ben Lazard, Jack Morris, Robert Baker, Jason Hemmerlin, Michael Poole, Rodrigo Nino; supervising sound editors, Wayne Bell Tom Hammond; re-recording mixer, Hammond. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Nov. 6, 2012. Running Time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Scott Tinker, Steve Hedge, Steve Koonin, Ernie Moniz, Richard Lamotte.

More Film

  • Empty movie theater

    Theater Owners Create $2.4 Million Fund for Cinema Workers

    The National Association of Theatre Owners and the Pioneers Assistance Fund have created an initial $2.4 million fund to provide financial assistance to movie theater employees who need help due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations said Monday that the first part of the initiative is a grant program that will provide a stipend to [...]

  • Bob Chapek Bob Iger Disney

    Bob Iger to Give Up Salary, Other Senior Disney Executives to Take Pay Cuts

    Disney has joined the list of companies implementing sizable pay cuts for senior executives amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis. Bob Iger, who shifted from chairman-CEO to executive chairman last month, has opted to forgo his salary for the year. Bob Chapek, who succeeded Iger as CEO, has taken a 50% pay cut. [...]

  • Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic' Picked Up

    Sundance Horror Movie 'Relic,' Starring Emily Mortimer, Picked Up By Film Constellation

    London-based production, finance and sales company Film Constellation has boarded the critically-lauded “Relic,” the debut feature from Natalie Erika James. The film, which stars Emily Mortimer (“Shutter Island”), Robyn Nevin (“The Matrix Trilogy”) and Bella Heathcote (“The Neon Demon”), had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the Midnight section. The film, which [...]

  • Judy Movie 2019 renee zellweger

    Korea Box Office: ‘Judy’ Debuts on Top as Cinemas Slump to Historic Lows

    The South Korean box office, which has been widely affected by coronavirus and has fallen to historic lows, was further hit by leading exhibitor CJ-CGV’s recent decision to shut 35 complexes nationwide, and to reduce screenings at those theaters remaining in operation. Opening on Wednesday (Mar. 25), Oscar-winning drama “Judy” debuted on top of the [...]

  • 'Elephant' Review: Less Majestic Than the

    'Elephant,' Narrated by Meghan Markle: Film Review

    Of all the members of the animal kingdom we think of as akin to humans — chimps, dolphins, whales, perhaps (if we’re being honest about it) our dogs — elephants may be the most movingly and preternaturally aware. Because you can see how intelligent they are. You see it in a chimp’s face, too, of [...]

  • Ken Shimura

    Japanese Comedian Ken Shimura Dies of Coronavirus at 70

    Ken Shimura, a comedian who was a fixture on Japanese television for decades, died on Sunday evening from the coronavirus, the Japanese media reported Monday. He was 70, and immediately before his illness had been set for his first starring role in a feature film. Shimura entered a Tokyo hospital on March 20 with fever [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content