We are told to limit our intake of fish (especially certain kinds, like swordfish and shark) because they are polluted with varying levels of mercury (from the epa.gov website, "...nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury.") The fact that fish - a staple of the human diet since who knows when - now comes with warnings is, in my opinion, a deeply troubling sign of how our environment is coping with the levels of pollution that are being put into the atmosphere.
Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth", tackles the issue of global warming, with the former vice president standing in front of an audience and detailing, piece-by-piece, how devastated the environment has become (and how much worse it will get) due to global warming from various forms of pollution. Gore is a pleasant surprise throughout the documentary; while he gained a reputation for being stiff and dry, the Gore we find here is warm, occasionally funny and outgoing. Gore has given the speech many times before, and is obviously practiced.
Gore opens with a simple explanation (thanks to a cartoon that appears to have been created by "Futurama" animators) about how greenhouse gasses are trapping heat (the hottest years on record were the last 14 years, with the hottest of all being 2005) and melting the ice caps. We see a once massive glacier reduced to a tiny sliver that appears as if it could tumble at any moment. As Gore notes early on, Glacier National Park will become "the Park Formerly Known as Glacier." Other before and after pictures of similar locations are just as horrifying. Polar ice samples show increasing CO2 levels. Warmer ocean waters, Gore notes, result in stronger storms around the globe and severe drought in other areas of the world. Animals like polar bears, birds and others around the world are suffering badly from the changes in the climate. Eventually, highly populated areas around the world will be under water. Gore notes that, if something is not done, in a short period of time, the world may have passed a point where it cannot repair the damage global warming has done. The evidence goes on, and it's clear and clearly shocking.
Director Davis Guggenheim does a very fine job capturing Gore's presentation, which is a mixture of still photos, archive footage, electronic graphs/charts, CGI presentations and more. The film also cuts away from the presentation at times to fill in other aspects about Gore's past or to offer more aspects about the topic he's currently discussing. Some of these segments that offer more about Gore's life could maybe have been dropped; while I certainly have nothing against Gore, some of these bits break-up his discussion of the main topic unnecessarily. Certainly, not all of these segments (which don't add up to all that much running time) should be dropped, just one or two. It's a minor nitpick in an otherwise engaging documentary.
As Gore notes, this is not a political issue - it's a moral one. The evidence is happening all around us, and it is up to everyone around the globe to recognize the warning signs and respond to them for our future and future generations. Those who turn the film into a political issue are missing out on an important film.
VIDEO: "An Inconvenient Truth" is presented by Paramount in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film's image quality is about as good as one can reasonably hope for, given the kind of material this is and given the budget of the filming. Sharpness and detail are excellent throughout much of the film, save for some segments outside the presentation that look like they were filmed with consumer-grade cameras.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, although a 5.1 soundtrack seems hardly necessary for a film that's largely dialogue-driven. Audio quality is excellent, as dialogue is crisp and clear.
EXTRAS: Director Davis Guggenheim participates in one commentary track, while Laurie David, Scott Z. Burns, Lawrence Bender, and Lesley Chilcott offer their thoughts on an additional commentary track. "An Update From Al Gore" runs a little over 30 minutes and features Gore discussing a lot of the concerns that have arisen since the movie was filmed, as well as a few positive things that have occured, as well. A "making of" featurette follows the crew as they build the set, plan out shooting the film and then finally start filming in front of an audience. Lastly, we get a music video.
Note: the film comes in 100% recycled packaging. The case is a cardboard sleeve with the disc tucked inside one of the sides.
Final Thoughts: "An Inconvenient Truth" is a chilling look at our future and the devastation that will occur if we do not take steps to save our environment. The DVD offers excellent video quality, fine audio quality and a nice selection of supplements. An absolute must see.
The Film A