DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power



We have come to the point where asking someone if they subscribe to the science of climate change might as well be as tenuous as asking a person if they believe in God, heaven, and hell.  Climate change, in all its labels and incarnations, has become a divisive firebrand topic like few others in the decade since David Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning and punctually motivating documentary An Inconvenient Truth.  In several ways, the topic has come a long way in some places only to slip backward in other measures.  An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a persuasive update on the matter.

Former Vice President Al Gore, a man now gone gray who has been willing to have his eyes opened for a long time, returns to further pontificate his continuously updated and impassioned slideshow presentation on what has become a career-defining cause.  Updated real-world imagery of floods, storms, and melting ice boosts the catalog of evidence and new statistics.  Combined, it equals a call for increased urgency.  Since 2006, the two-time Presidential candidate has weathered the pushback and oppositional propaganda from right-wing media, fought through personal failures, and regrouped his efforts to multiply his message through personally overseeing training programs of new ambassadors.

Gore has watched too many missed opportunities and roadblocks impede progress.  Big money politics and big business opposition suppressing and monopolizing the energy market have created political hurdles.  He has continued his “it’s happening argument” and challenges that the situation is beyond blissful ignorance, Biblical adjectives and all.

Connected to the subtitle “Truth to Power,” Al has elevated his efforts behind speaking engagements to being a figurehead working to broker international climate and energy policies in political and business arenas across the world.  The documentary highlights visits to Greenland, Miami, Paris, Texas, and Gore’s home state of Tennessee as it, like the previous entry, pauses for autobiographical footnotes and reflections on the presenter himself.

The tone of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is more cinematic thanks to a beefier budget spawned from the first documentary’s wide successes.  High-end cinematography from Jon Shenk adds scope, but composer Jeff Beal’s musical score is more than a little pushy, where one wonders how hard are the filmmakers and central figure was swinging for the dramatic effect fences.  Next thing you know, they would have melted the snow off of the Paramount Pictures mountain logo in the opening credits like Waterworld did for the Universal Pictures globe 22 years ago.

No matter how on the nose it can be in brief moments, the overall messages delivered by Al Gore ring incredibly true and cognizant over and over, with every kilowatt hour of electricity spent and every ton of carbon dioxide spewed during the perceptive 99 minutes of learning.  This is a louder Gore for sure, yet his very assuring and dedicated candor ring is a welcome presence to convey clear-eyed perspective and leadership.  Believer or non-believer, you have to admire such conviction.  Former President Jimmy Carter is still building houses for Habitat for Humanity in his nineties.  Let’s hope the 69-year-old Al Gore can do the same for this movement and objective for another quarter century.  

LESSON #1: SOME DATA DOESN’T LIE-- Climate change isn’t a new science anymore.  We’re past outliers.  Too many dots connect than ones that don’t.  Much of Gore’s 2006 data and prognostications keep coming up correct and he shouldn’t be considered a Chicken Little anymore.  

LESSON #2: JUST BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN YOUR BACKYARD DOESN’T MEAN IT IS NOT HAPPENING ELSEWHERE-- Call these folks the “porch rocker” ranters or the “frogs in the boiling water.”  The shortsightedness of some people is astounding when you circle back to Lesson #1.  For example, a one-degree average temperature increase in a year doesn’t sound drastic, but when they happen unchecked every year, incrementally, it becomes a problem and a worsening trend.  The temperate and rich United States is a lucky place.  We just turn on the air conditioners or the heaters.  This documentary will show you places elsewhere in the world (and some not-so-quietly domestic) that are not so well off and facing dire straits with millions of lives at stake.  The film’s section on microbes and climate-enhanced diseases alone will blow your mind.   Increase your worldview because suffering binds people.

LESSON #3: SPEED UP THE TRANSITIONS TO CLEANER ENERGY SOURCES-- Examples, both large and small, are cropping up around the world of communities and even entire countries eliminating their dependence and uses of fossil fuels in favor of greener energy sources.  The science is out there and the costs are dropping to make smarter and safer choices more affordable.  Just look at the light bulb aisle at Walmart if you need the most basic proof of feasibility.  Small efforts and changes can turn into big initiatives and still make people money.

LESSON #4: THE MEANING OF “TRUTH TO POWER”-- Al Gore has found that you have to talk to the big people and the ones that hold the cards and clout to get things done.  They need to see the hard facts.  Gore can do that unflinchingly like he’s looking down the barrel of a gun.

LESSON #5: HOPE WITHIN DESPAIR-- The loftiest message of all is that Gore firmly believes that the climate crisis has become a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue in desperate need of united effort from all of mankind.  It’s become right versus wrong for him.  Through it all, because of his own work and the potential that is out there, he chooses optimism over pessimism.  That’s something worth getting behind.