Film: Review: The 11th Hour

Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary tackles humanity's final hour

Sep 3, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Warner Independent

Leonardo DiCaprio is the narrator/producer and co-writer of The 11th Hour.

Is it all a hoax? A plot by those kooky liberals in the media and the pseudo-enlightened movie stars driving around in their hybrid cars? Conservatives scare us with terrorism and liberals use the environment and a dying planet scenario to spook the bejesus out of us, to get us to go after the big corporations that capitalize on the planet's natural resources — like they wouldn't if they had thought of it first.

Death ­ it's all about death and dying. We're dying over there, they say, just like we're dying over here, although the liberals would say we're dying here based on our own slow-acting death wish.

Some will say that An Inconvenient Truth begat The 11th Hour (including narrator/producer/co-writer Leonardo DiCaprio, a famously green-minded star), but lest we forget it was not Vice President Al Gore's award-winning documentary that planted the seed. The first seedling was his book, Earth in the Balance, which is where the then-senator fused together his own sense of a calling to defend the environment from humanity's careless disregard.

Yet it is not disregard that fuels conservatives; it is a total regard for profit. It is a question of the economical versus the ecological, which means that technology as a tool has the greatest impact. But rather than focus exclusively on technology as an evil, a tool that despoils, why not shift our conception a bit?

This film seeks to examine how technology has steered us away from nature and considerations of the environment.

The 11th Hour explores this dynamic more than Gore's Truth. Gore, for better and worse, had an agenda and his trusty PowerPoint presentation to back it up. But DiCaprio and his collection of scientists and visionaries have a broader notion guiding them. Maybe, just maybe, Earth isn't in danger. The planet has survived and likely will continue to exist beyond our period, no matter how much strain and harm we inflict. But what if our time is reaching its end? What if we become like the dinosaurs and other species that have come and gone and left little or no trace, no footprint in the sand?

The 11th Hour is a plea for peace, a warning against our violent intentions directed toward the planet because the Earth is fighting back in the only way it can. We are beginning to see that we are destined to lose this battle, this war for survival. As Agent Smith said in The Matrix, it is inevitable, except this time we are not locked in battle against machines but rather nature.

We are a disease, a virus spreading like wildfire. The population has exploded from the point in the 1800s when we first reached 1 billion to the 1960s when we crossed the 3 billion mark to the more than 6 billion people infecting Mother Earth today. The film points out how this plays like a revenge story — revenge of the gods.

Yet even with our minds trained on science and technology, the old myths continue to frighten. Mother Earth will not stand much more. She will turn her back; she will regain control. Her system, damaged and on life support, will remove the threat of our deadly strain.

And it is this storyline, this vision of the struggle that makes this Hour more effective than Gore's Truth.

His truth was fact-based, whereas in this Hour there is fact and speculation taken for what it is: an inconclusive but compelling argument because it taps into more than fear. It speaks to our frail humanity, the frailness of human existence.

And of all the knowledgeable figureheads who address us, it's DiCaprio who speaks most directly, with a language and a sense that feels relatable. Despite his status as a movie star cocooned in the trappings of glamour and fame, he is a hero: a demigod from Olympus. He did not bring fire to Man, but he is showing us how that fire has been used to ravage and destroy. And it seems he wants to lead both the demigods and us mere mortals to a path where we can save one another. Or at least extend our time here a bit longer. Grade: A