Dir: Leila Conners Petersen & Nadia Conners. USA . 2007. 91 mins.
Leonardo DiCaprio discreetly lends his weight as star and environmental campaigner to The 11th Hour, an unashamedly polemical documentary cum call-to-arms about the current dire state of the ecology - and future prospects for change.
The film makes a suitable companion piece to last year's high-profile Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth but its barrage of information and functional assemblage of archive footage and talking heads will make it a less appealing commercial prospect than Gore's narratively coherent film. DiCaprio's status alone will enhance its public profile, however, and the film's true future no doubt lies in DVD, where it promises to provide a key teaching tool in schools and other educational contexts.
The film's tenor is generally positive rather than doom-laden, with DiCaprio and his collaborators mustering their information in order, in the film's final third, to propose immediate courses of action to steer humanity away from its current catastrophic actions and to envisage a new course of sustainable design.
A variety of independent commentators - economists, environmentalists, oceanographers, designers et al - including Professor Stephen Hawking and a briefly-glimpsed Mikhail Gorbachev - offer their diagnoses for the state of the planet and proposals for ways to create sustainable ways of ensuring a survival for humanity and the planet.
The first parts of the film are a strict 101 of environmentalism and global catastrophe - montages of footage and information showing, first, how earth's biosystems arose and came to sustain themselves, and secondly, the catastrophic damage done since the Industrial Revolution.
Much of the film offers the familiar litanies of floods, famine, hurricanes et al, but the film takes a much more positive and indeed militant turn in its final third as commentators show ways in which green design systems and new industrial and economic models could, if not reverse the tide of damage, at least provide ways of slowing it down.
The film is didactically effective in its upbeat final moments, which plead for humanity to commit itself to new ways of living - the key term, says one speaker, is 'frugality' - rather than damaging wastefulness. The film isn't afraid to take a moderately political line, pointing the finger at corporate globalisation and governments' complicity with it, and although the film isn't angrily didactic on a Michael Moore level, it couldn't be accused of being apolitical either.
The film suffers most from its form, being a routine succession of interviews interspersed with archive footage, assembled in a not always coherent fashion, with occasional animated scientific diagrams likely to confuse more than enlighten. DiCaprio himself, a rather stiff narrator, makes only occasional modest appearances. As an exercise in film pamphleteering, the film, formally stuffy though it is, fulfils its brief with economic efficiency, as befits its subject.
Warner Bros. International
Warners Independent Pictures
Tree Media Group
Leonardo Di Caprio
Leila Conners Petersen
Leila Conners Petersen
Peter Youngblood Hills
Luis Alvarez y Alvarez
Jean Pascal Beintus