by thomas
Categories: People.


This is the third in a series of reviews of The 11th Hour. See our previous post “The 11th Hour: Kinda Like The Titanic, But Everyone’s On Board

In May 1940, shortly after Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium and France were conquered by the Germans, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in an address to the House of Commons, called upon his citizenry to summon up the courage to defend the homeland, an effort he hoped would one day be recognized as Britain’s “finest hour.”

Sixty-seven years later, the world is at another precarious crossroads. This time, however, it’s not the fate of Britain that swings in the balance, but the very survival of the human race. Unfortunately, as a new piece of cinema from Leonardo DiCaprio explains, time is running out. We are in The 11th Hour. That film, the eagerly anticipated eco-heir apparent to An Inconvenient Truth, will hit theaters in New York and Los Angeles on August 17, with nationwide distribution a week later. Mollie and I attended a preview screening last night in midtown Manhattan.

What impressed me the most was the phenomenal array of talking heads the filmmakers have assembled to bring home the message that we must act now. Everyone from Mikhail Gorbachev to Stephen Hawking weigh in and the insights that fly around are so downright compelling that as the movie unfolds, you’ll wish you’d brought a notebook into the theater. (I did and I still couldn’t grab all of the quotes I wanted to save for future reference.) In many ways, 11th Hour learns from the missteps of the films that preceded it. For all of its merits, An Inconvenient Truth has always felt a tad bit pokey to me, what with Al Gore stuck for most of the film inside that darn lecture hall, in front of a largely catatonic audience. Leo steers clear of the classroom entirely and acts as an outside observer, content to let the experts have their say and keeping his own screen time to a minimum. As they expound on everything from water pollution to soil erosion, tree massacres to animal cruelty, increasing rates of childhood asthma to desertification, the experts in The 11th Hour are unaminous in their outlook. And it’s pretty grim. Not only are we in the eleventh hour, the film warns. It’s 11:59.

But unlike A Crude Awakening—which essentially said we’re doomed and there’s precious little any of us can do about it—The 11th Hour won’t send you forth with head hung low. True to his Hollywood roots, DiCaprio ends his film on a high note, featuring the ways that technology can help us beat back our oil dependency and come up with new ways to deal with the strains that a quickly multiplying population have placed on a planet with finite natural resources.

Like An Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour doesn’t offer very much in the way of actual advice for individuals looking to make a difference. However, the movie does encourage everyone to vote—every day—with their wallets. Don’t buy anything you don’t support or believe in. And don’t buy more than you need, lest you become a slave to your possessions (see clip below). For more practical tips, visit the film’s excellent web site and check out my favorite section, the action letters, where you can obtain sample missives to send to local businesses (your neighborhood car wash, dry cleaner, restaurant) and encourage them to be more environmentally aware.

Small steps, but maybe, just maybe, we can escape this eleventh hour and turn it into our finest one.

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