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DiCaprio Delivers Wake-up Call in ‘The 11th Hour’

November 2, 2007

We’ve all heard the gloom and doom predictions of climate change and pending environmental disaster: global warming, rising sea levels, natural disasters, mass extinctions.

Same old stuff, right? The thing is, it may actually be true.

That’s the driving force behind the documentary “The 11th Hour,” narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The delivery, however, is a bit more blunt than expected from a Hollywood heartthrob; in essence, DiCaprio sets a series of images and photos on the head of a baseball bat, and beats you into submission. It works.

The movie revolves around a sort of slide show of images, some depicting the earth’s remaining natural beauty, others the calamities humans have inflicted upon it. A dozen or so talking heads, mostly scientists, explain in vividly clear language just how dumb we humans are acting.

There is no carefully choreographed storyline, the music is just OK, and DiCaprio appears pale and poorly shaven, but the message remains abundantly clear: If we don’t do something, and now, we’re going to pay the price.

DiCaprio isn’t shy about whom he runs down with his swinging bat, and reminds us that our continuing dependency on oil – and a handful of astoundingly rich and powerful companies – will bring about our eventual downfall.

The movie, aimed primarily at U.S. audiences, sends yet another wake-up call: Our cushy, insulated, consumer-oriented life has nothing to do with the rest of the world, or reality, and until we realize that and insist our governments do the same, we’re headed for disaster.

Perhaps these things have already been said, but DiCaprio believes they need to be repeated until someone does something about them. This same line of reasoning may likely lead to more Hollywood documentaries, and perhaps even some action.

The movie, while clear in its message, does have its weak points.

For starters, DiCaprio’s talking heads aren’t always reputable sources. For example, what qualifications do former Soviet Union head Mikhail Gorbachev and natural medicine practitioner Andrew Weil possess that make them authorities on environmental calamities?

And those pretty (and not so pretty) pictures, which obviously took time to assemble and choreograph – where were they taken? We never find out, nor do we hear the story behind them.

But minor quibbles are bound to emerge when a Hollywood icon dabbles in such a complicated subject, one that incorporates global economics, science and history – and requires sound reporting to boot.

In the end, some will believe, others won’t. Either way, the movie makes a question of our collective future on Earth.

It’s uncomfortable to sit through, even in well-cushioned theater seats, but that’s just what “The 11th Hour” forces you to do: listen, uncomfortably.

 

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