The 11th Hour

Movie Information

The Story: Documentary about global warming. The Lowdown: Leonardo DiCaprio cowrote, coproduced and narrates this well-intended, but largely redundant film that scores some points for suggesting solutions anyone can employ.
Genre: Documentary
Director: Nadia Conners, Leila Conners Petersen
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill McKibben, Mikhail Gorbachev, Stephen Hawking
Rated: PG

What is there to say about The 11th Hour? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s high-minded, well-intentioned and competently made. You go into the theater, sit down, and get exactly what you expect for 95 minutes. Simply put, there are no surprises—a concept that works better for a hotel chain than a movie. The central problem lies with the fact that it’s a movie that takes “preaching to the converted” to new levels. Let’s face it, the primary audience for this film is the very same audience that flocked to An Inconvenient Truth (2006)—an audience already sold on the issue of global warming, and one that isn’t going to learn anything new from this documentary.

Response to the film has been as predictable as the film itself, raising the ho-hummery factor to even greater heights: It has been praised for what it attempts in some quarters, damned as “crazy left-wing propaganda” in others, and, of course, there has been the usual outcry against a “mere actor” (in this case, cowriter, coproducer and narrator Leonardo DiCaprio) daring to voice an opinion on anything not related to his own profession. (I confess I have never understood why actors, directors, writers etc. are supposed to have no opinion on anything outside their own field of expertise—except, of course, that this objection is usually raised by the right, who perhaps feel disenfranchised by the relative paucity of right-wing artists.)

The truth is that DiCaprio and filmmakers Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen have made a perfectly OK movie—the echt-indie film, pseudo-Koyaanisqatsi time-lapse photography to one side—that features a wide array of talking heads weighing in on the subject of global warming with varying degrees of persuasiveness.

However, the film does break free of just being OK in one respect—and it’s a pretty important one. The last section of The 11th Hour concerns itself entirely with a look at solutions to the problem, finally imbuing the film with a sense of hopefulness—and better still, hopefulness on a personal level. The film is savvy in putting forth small suggestions—as well as the more sweeping and costly ones—about things individuals can do to make a difference. It recognizes that not everyone can afford to run right out and buy a hybrid car or build an eco-friendly house or even junk every appliance they own for models labeled “energy efficient.” So it puts forth a series of suggestions—recycling, energy-efficient light bulbs etc.—that everyone can afford. This may seem like a no-brainer to many of us, but considering the number of people I’ve encountered who feel that there’s nothing they can do, I’m not so sure it is. For this alone, the film is not without its purpose. Rated PG for thematic elements

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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