Leo DiCaprio follows in Al Gore‘s surprise-hit footsteps with environmental warning doc "The 11th Hour." Despite offering a message we’ve heard before, the film, which sisters Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen directed and DiCaprio produced, co-wrote and narrates, is attracting generally decent reviews for its attempts optimism and pragmatism. As Manohla Dargis at the New York Times notes,
No matter how well intentioned, political documentaries that present problems without real-life, real-time, real-people solutions â€” an 800 number, an address, something â€” just add to the noise (pollution), becoming another title on some filmmakerâ€™s rÃ©sumÃ© as well as a temporary salve for the audienceâ€™s guilt.
She concludes that "It is our astonishing capacity for hope that distinguishes ‘The 11th Hour’ and that speaks so powerfully." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon thinks that the film "is arguably a more important movie" than "An Inconvenient Truth," "a haunting, elegiac history of how human beings have brought the planet to the edge of a precipice, and call upon an impressive array of thinkers to discuss how, and whether, we can avoid the abyss that waits below."
Nick Schager at Slant writes that "even if occasionally issuing threats like a street corner kook waving around an apocalypse-is-coming placard, it also makes a mighty strong argument that there’s plenty to fear from mankind’s environmental recklessness," though he finds the solutions proposed at the film’s end don’t seem to measure up to the argument established about the power of the oil companies. A similar sentiment is expressed by Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly, who reads the ending as "there’s still a chance for individuals who are not ExxonMobil fat cats to make a difference by, I think, eating local carrots and using those compact fluorescent bulbs that cast such harsh and insufficient light."
David Edelstein at New York suggests that "The 11th Hour" "isnâ€™t much of a movie (unless your aesthetic was formed in high-school science class), but it will be hugely informative to aliens who land on this planet in a thousand years and wonder why thereâ€™s no welcoming committee." The Onion AV Club‘s Tasha Robinson sighs that "The problems are expressed loosely and frantically, and the solutions are just as vague… The 11th Hour is slick and passionate, but neither persuasive nor helpful; it’s a headache of a film directed like an Errol Morris project, but with half the substance." And at the Village Voice, Mike D’Angelo is scornful, writing that "the prevailing mood, contrary to its makers’ intentions, is one of forlorn hopelessness."
Beneath all the hand-wringing about carbon emissions and biodiversity lies a simple question: Why do we vote for people who we know aren’t going to do anything we want them to? That heady subject could make a great documentary, but it’d require a filmmaker willing to put down the well-meaning agenda and venture forth armed only with a camera and sheer curiosity.