An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

 

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A message that still very much matters, even if the man delivering it gets in the way.

 
 An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power


 

The title of this film is a reminder that just over ten years ago Al Gore’s potent views on climate change were memorably expressed on film in An Inconvenient Truth. That film was directed by Davis Guggenheim who here switches to being an executive producer, the directors this time being Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk. However, the fact that this sequel is so much less telling than the original is not down to the direction but to other factors entirely, even if Cohen and Shenk can be blamed for using a banal, lacklustre music score.

 

When reviewing the earlier film I did describe it as being not much more than a filmed lecture, but nevertheless it provided an absorbing experience: it revealed Gore to be a brilliant speaker and it gave us all food for thought about the need to combat global warming because the case for it was being expressed more persuasively than ever before. There are passages in the new film which do recapture something of that effectiveness (certain images and certain statistics, for example), but the topic is no longer fresh even if hostile reactions to the very notion of global warming and its consequences make it necessary to keep pressing the arguments.

 

What we have here instead of a set-piece lecture is a work in which the camera keeps following Gore around: it follows him on many trips to far-flung places undertaken in pursuit of his passionate commitment to this issue. They involve not just frequent speeches but courses set up by him for Climate Reality Leadership in order to get the matter more fully aired through others. Unfortunately, assembling this on film (one actually better suited to being a television programme) has the unforeseen consequence of it coming across as a propaganda piece for Al Gore. In An Inconvenient Truth he was, however brilliant, the servant of the message, but here you can't escape the sense of it being a film promoting him - it contains flashbacks to his earlier career and footage of his home replete with old family photographs, while many a meeting relevant to the theme is prefaced by shots of him going to it.

 

Had the film been made a little later, it might have been constructed to lead up to a denunciation of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016. As it is, despite managing a few brief late scenes referencing this, the film makes the Paris concord its climax relishing the way in which Gore saved the day by suggestions that won over India to give support. Gore is not at his most persuasive when linking the outcome with reactions to the terror attack in Paris that occurred at that time, yet it is used to justify the inclusion of footage related to that event. However, even in the case of the impressive first film the importance of what was being said was what really counted and that remains true here. For all its  imperfections, this sequel may bring fresh converts to the cause and Trump’s actions only serve to make it crucial that the argument continues to be made (the second part of the title was, perhaps, inserted with Trump in mind). On those grounds alone, it is more important to welcome An Inconvenient Sequel than it is to criticise it. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Al Gore, Philip Levine, John Kerry, Nicholas Stern, Karenna Gore, Christiana Figueres, Eric Rignot, John Leonard Chan.

 

Dir Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, Pro Richard Berge, Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann, Ph Jon Shenk, Ed Don Bernier and Colin Nusbaum, Music Jeff Beal.

 

Actual Films/Participant Media-Paramount Pictures.
98 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 18 August 2017. Cert. PG.