For many years, even before he served as vice president, Al Gore
had been delivering a speech and slide show that pointed out the
dangers of global warming. He had first encountered the issue as an
undergraduate and environmental concerns were part of his platform
for his first campaign for the presidency in 1988. I can vividly recall
him speaking on a talk show about the issue and it was partly due
to his strong position on that issue that I backed him in '88. Four
years later, when Bill Clinton selected Gore as his running mate, his
presence on the ticket was the sole reason I pulled that lever.

 Now after winning the popular vote in the 2000 election, but
losing the presidency in the electoral college, Gore dusted off his
old presentation, added a few contemporary touches and updated
the data and hit the road again. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim
followed him around and the result is
a documentary that incorporates Gore's knowledge of global warming
with some personal material. While it may not necessarily the best
documentary of the year, it clearly has an important message to impart.

 So what exactly is that message? Simply put, despite the
dismissals by sectors of the media and certain government offices,
the Earth is facing a crisis. The environmental movement came to
the fore as early as the 1940s when Rachel Carson published her first
UNDER THE SEA WIND, but it hit a peak with the 1962 publication
THE SILENT SPRING, which first appeared as a series of articles in
THE NEW YORKER magazine. Gore was a high school student at the
time Carson's book appeared, but it was Professor Roger Revelle at
Harvard who first introduced Gore to the concept of global warming.
In that class, the seeds for the future were sown.

 Once Gore was elected to Congress, he made the issue one
of his top priorities. He was under the mistaken belief that the men
and women serving in Congress would get as fired up as he was over
the issue. He held the requisite hearings and had high-level scientists
testify, but the lobbyists for oil companies and others who are
partly responsible for the influx of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
were just as influential. Gore failed to impress his colleagues -- indeed
he was even lampooned in the media over his belief in this matter --
but he has persisted.

 Using a battery of photographs taken over time to illustrate
the decreasing mountain icecaps and the shrinking glaciers, he presents
his multimedia lecture as the spine of the film. Around it, director
Davis Guggenheim also manages to present Gore the man -- a side of
him not often seen in public. During his service in Congress and later
as vice president, many referred to Gore as wooden and humorless,
which isn't truthful as this documentary illustrates. Some of these
scenes feel tangential to the heart of the matter, but they do help
to shape a fully rounded picture of the man.

 His message to the people of the world -- it really is not just
an American thing, although we are responsible for adding the most
carbons to the atmosphere -- is that we have a window of opportunity
to work to halt and perhaps even reverse some of the effects of
global climate changes. Whether or not we do so is entirely in our
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH makes clear some of the steps
needed to be taken. I would suggest sticking around for the closing
credits. In addition to a terrific original song sung by Melissa Etheridge,
there are suggestions on what each individual can do. Right now, it's
not too late, but soon it may very well be.

         Rating:                B+
         MPAA Rating:        PG for mild thematic elements
         Running time:       100 mins.        
An Inconvenient Truth
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.