The 11th Hour
Super Size Me, check. Fahrenheit 9/11, The Corporation, The Fog of War, Sicko, check, check, check, and check. Why do we need another documentary on what's wrong with Dubya's world? Even the leftiest moviegoers must be settling into their seats with a resigned sigh to view The 11th Hour, knowing their participation is less about entertainment than accumulating some kind of credit hours. Speaking of which, didn't we take this seminar last year, when it was called An Inconvenient Truth? And didn't we change our light bulbs to fluorescents and put air in our tires already? Isn't the deal that you do your homework and the next time you can watch The Simpsons Movie?
At first blush, The 11th Hour's grim tone doesn't do anything to stoke our enthusiasm. The earth is dying, humans are the cause, here's Leonardo DiCaprio to help the message go down easier, yada yada yada, what else is new? But at about the 20-minute mark, something extraordinary happens. It's not in the documentary's structure--it's talking heads (everyone from Mikhail Gorbachev to U.S. Forest Service activist Gloria Flora) interspersed with b-roll from here on out--but as one expert after another, in fields ranging from medicine to politics to science to religion, speaks passionately about how the impending crisis will devastate humanity, the magnitude of the horror of what we're facing slowly sinks in. Even if every gasoline-powered car was taken off the road tomorrow, the damage is already done. A cataclysm of biblical proportions--mass starvations, mutations, natural disasters, all stoked by our avaricious consumption of everything the earth offers--is in its planning stages. By the end of the movie's first act, the audience is quaking, absolutely convinced of the certain doom headed our way.
It's in the third act that The 11th Hour redeems itself as not just a horror documentary but an optimistic call to arms. Scientists and designers detail a miraculous vision of nightclubs where the disco lights are powered by the kinetic energy of dancers stomping on the piezoelectric floor, of cities where every skyscraper draws in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen just like a tree. Most astoundingly, these ideas aren't future prototypes--the technology to implement them exists right now, and only the pain of a paradigm shift is preventing us from using them everywhere. By the time the lights go up you're ready to join the next step in the advancement of our species and make our home safe for generations to come. Even if you're suffering from documentary fatigue, make an exception for this must-see movie.