An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

UK Release Date 18th August 2017
Director Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
Starring Al Gore, Destruction
Runtime 98 Minutes
Certificate PG
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 14th August 2017

I've always found Al Gore a frustrating individual. I guess, I've never properly forgiven him for his performances in the debates back in the 2000 election. A man seemingly completely uncomfortable in his own skin when faced with actually having a conversation with voters, it was this, accompanied with the Jeb Bush / Katherine Harris show that plunged us into eight years of Bush Jnr. presidency. Which, based on today's world, is starting to look like a halcyon age of reason and optimism. At the time, however, it had an almost immediate effect on the world's climate as Jnr. yanked the USA out of the Kyoto agreement.

This blow is one of many that Al Gore has suffered, many of which surface in this sequel to his Oscar winning documentary / polemic against environmental ignorance, An Inconvenient Truth. Picking up ten years and many setbacks and triumphs later, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a movie very much in the same vein as the original. By which I mean, if you had issues with the first one, you're going to have them here too. This isn't a documentary to convert the non-believers (and I use the word 'belief' advisedly here), it builds on the original's science to demonstrate the effects of mankind's lack of action and thus serves as a reminder to the believers that the job is in no way finished. As if it will ever be.

Essentially based around the Paris climate agreement meetings in 2016, we travel with Gore on his journey up to that point, and then, in what feels and likely is, a much regretted final act, his attempts to mitigate the potentially disastrous consequences of the world's biggest tool becoming the POTUS. Thrown in we also get some Gore background as he travels back to his familial ranch to trace the roots of his climate training course and give us some good old fashioned humanising of the man.

Where the original movie was very much focused on the science of climate change (depending on who you believe), here Gore is at pains to draw a line from the points raised in part one to the effects on the ground now. Which is a great step forward for this type of documentary. At one stage, one of the speakers refers to the consequences of climate change as too large to be fathomable, which just about nails my issue with a great deal of the environmental lobby. Shouting about the end of days is only ever going to work when you're selling a faith to people, otherwise it's far too abstract a concept for people to deal with. Showing them the line between the science and the reason why most of Miami is currently under three feet of water is far more effective - especially if they're in Miami. I'm not convinced Gore shows that line clearly, there is little talk of the exact science behind the flooding but the effects are clear as he paddles through water over his boots before changing into a suit and hitting the lecture circuit.

Gore himself, contrary to his conversational awkwardness (a live Q&A beamed out from the Picturehouse Central emphasised this element - his answers clicked into well worn tales, very rarely coming across as a genuine conversation), is a powerful speaker when he gets going. It is impossible to doubt his passion and commitment to the cause and probably the movie's best moments are when we are eavesdropping on Gore, for example, as he tries to convince politicians from a growing India that they must also adopt the same technology as the West in order to deal with a problem almost entirely created by the West not having that technology in its development. The key with Gore is that, having had that conversation and now as a 'recovering politician' (another well worn phrase), he is free to then get on to any number of clean energy companies to attempt to persuade them to give away their IP in order to make the technology affordable for countries such as India.

This insight throughout gives you a sense that it is high-level manoeuvring such as this  that is essential in the background, twisting well meaning corporations to expand their reach whilst largely obviating the need to spend too much time dealing with politician's whims. Indeed, if there is a positive message to come from the movie, it is that the changes required to improve our chances on Earth are likely to happen despite politicians not because of them.

Gore spends some time with a true, deep south Conservative mayor who sums up the idiocy and venality of ignoring man-made climate change perfectly. Despite his political affiliation, the mayor, in the middle of converting his entire town to renewables, can't understand why he would be doing anything other. It is common sense to want clean air and clean water, why would he continue to pollute it and poison his citizens when there is an alternative? Which strikes at the other side of Gore's spectrum. It may take a man such as him to wheel and deal in the corridors of power (both political and commercial) but it is at town hall level where the obvious changes can be made.

In Brief:
In Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a mixed bag. Its combination of folksy, well worn Tennessee storytelling and travelogue style disaster footage is going to make no inroads into anyone who chooses to believe climate change is either a complete lie or it's completely natural and nothing to do with people burning shit. And Gore, whatever he chooses to sell is never going to get away from the fact that he is a Democrat and therefore a born liar to a large part of the US population. But for those who can see that the science is solid, or that it's just plain fucking common sense that not polluting your backyard (or your neighbours) is a damn good plan, this is a stirring reminder that there is still work to be done. In today's political environment, it is always good to see progress in the face of stupidity.

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