AN INCONVENIENT SE­QUEL: TRUTH TO POWER

Empire (UK) - - ON.SCREEN - IAN FREER

YOU CAN AL­MOST count the num­ber of doc­u­men­tary fran­chises on one hand. From Michael Apted’s 7up se­ries — the James Bond of doc­u­men­tary film — to Joshua Op­pen­heimer’s brace, The Act Of Killing and The Look Of Si­lence, few doc­u­men­taries achieve the cut-through, both ar­tis­ti­cally and fi­nan­cially, to war­rant a fol­low-up. So it says some­thing about 2006’s An

Inconvenient Truth that it earned, even de­manded a se­quel. Gross­ing $50 mil­lion at the world­wide box of­fice and a Best Doc­u­men­tary Oscar, ex Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore’s call to arms put climate change into the cul­tural/po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion in a way cin­ema — or lit­tle else — had done be­fore. Bonni Co­hen and Jon Shenk, re­plac­ing orig­i­nal di­rec­tor Davis Guggen­heim, have cre­ated a thought­pro­vok­ing, im­por­tant but only patchily grip­ping se­quel that — and this was a big ask — doesn’t achieve the ur­gency or im­pact of its pro­gen­i­tor.

A jaun­tier pres­ence this time around, Gore jet-sets around the globe, vis­it­ing af­fected ar­eas (melt­ing Ice­landic glaciers, flooded Mi­ami streets), meet­ing politi­cians and busi­ness lead­ers whose cor­po­rate in­ter­ests he ar­gues are sab­o­tag­ing his agenda, and im­part­ing climate change train­ing to wannabe green ad­vo­cates. Here Truth To

Power, like its pre­de­ces­sor, re­mains slideshow­tas­tic. Chart­ing what Gore dubs con­di­tions from “the book of Rev­e­la­tion”, his talks Pow­er­point up a bun­dle of fright­en­ing facts (14 of Earth’s hottest recorded years have been since 2001) and com­pelling im­agery (the shoes of a woman vis­i­bly stick­ing to a hot road in In­dia), and of­fers a telling bench­mark ten years on: in the orig­i­nal film, an an­i­mated sec­tion imag­ined ris­ing seas flood­ing the site of the World Trade Cen­ter; now Gore can ditch the pre-vi­su­al­i­sa­tions and show Su­per Storm Sandy run­ning roughshod over Ground Zero. Th­ese early sec­tions of­fer a num­ber of po­tent points but lack shape and mo­men­tum, of­ten bit­ing off more than they can chew and skim­ming over im­por­tant topics.

The film gets bet­ter when the story shifts to Paris in 2015. There are dra­matic mo­ments as Gore’s 24-hour climate change broad­cast is dis­rupted by the ter­ror­ist at­tacks — he ar­gues it was no co­in­ci­dence — and the film gains added agency and sus­pense dur­ing the UN Climate Change Con­fer­ence where Gore tries to undo In­dia’s com­mit­ment to coal-fired power plants by wheeler-deal­ing on the price of so­lar-pow­ered projects to make them more at­trac­tive. If the film over­plays Gore’s hand in achiev­ing the Paris agree­ment, his tenac­ity, in­tel­li­gence and com­mit­ment to change is pal­pa­ble.

Weirdly, it’s a film at once hopped up on hope — the as­ton­ish­ing re­sults of so­lar power in Chile, a hard-line Repub­li­can mayor in Texas whose switch to renewable energy saves his con­stituents money — yet mar­i­nated in pes­simism. Pep­pered through­out the film is footage of (then Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date) Trump’s de­nial of climate change re­al­i­ties, and the film side­lines Gore’s at­tempts to en­gage the ret­ro­grade Pres­i­dent. He de­scribes in voiceover his in­abil­ity to turn world lead­ers around on fos­sil fu­els as “a per­sonal fail­ure”, but there is some­thing winning in his com­mon-sense op­ti­mism. Fin­gers crossed Amer­ica warms to his in­sight­ful pos­i­tiv­ity and makes a three­quel — ‘An Inconvenient Truth And The Last Cru­sade’ — re­dun­dant.

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