In 2006, Al Gore presented what is arguably the most influential PowerPoint presentation of all time in the groundbreaking global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the film became an unlikely box office hit and won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. But more essentially, the low-fi movie — set almost entirely within a conference room as Gore laid out a convincing case for the reality and urgency of climate change — helped bring the issue to the forefront of the American consciousness.
It’s not the kind of movie that typically gets a followup, even in sequel-happy Hollywood — but 10 years later Gore, is once again on movie screens in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which opened the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Thursday night. (Yahoo Movies attended a press screening.)
Like its predecessor, An Inconvenient Sequel is an urgent alarm that’s at times infuriating, devastating, and terrifying — yet it ultimately manages to inspire.
The key difference this time is that Gore moves out of the confines of that conference room. There are still plenty of truth bombs and statistics dropped via the old slideshow, mostly to live audiences at the climate-training seminars the former vice president sets up around the country. But mostly, Truth to Power shows Gore, the face of the global climate-change fight, in action.
Like a straight-laced, climate-change-obsessed Jason Bourne, he circles the globe, standing atop a glacier in Greenland that melts under his feet, wading through the flooded streets of Miami Beach, and visiting the storm-ravaged Philippines. And Truth to Power regularly unveils footage of extreme weather events that look like the type of apocalyptic destruction Roland Emmerich would dial up in big-budget disaster porn.
Gore’s biggest “fight,” so to speak, comes during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change seminar in Paris. He is confronted with the task of persuading Indian officials to reconsider plans to build 400 new coal power plants, a move Gore sees as potentially catastrophic to not just Asia but the entire global environment. How Gore pulls it off is a measure of diplomatic heroism.
Still, it all takes an emotional toll on Gore, who at times admits he’s become exasperated over the past decade’s rise in climate-change denial. Truth to Power is also a much more insightful look at Gore the man, or “recovering politician,” as he calls himself. We see him joke about his luck in Florida, show off his childhood ranch, and, in refreshingly new fashion, get fiery at multiple points.
As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Gore spoke after the gala screening in Park City, Utah, which occurred on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The film earned two standing ovations from the crowd. According to THR, Gore said, “Now we are undergoing a time of challenge, but we are going to prevail. I’m not going to give all the evidence of why I’m so confident. Always remember that the will to act is a renewable resource.” When asked by an audience member about his recent meeting with Trump, who’s called climate change a “hoax” in the past, Gore said, “We will know soon enough. It’s not the last conversation. A lot of people started out as climate-change denialists.”
How Truth to Power, skillfully directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, will play with the moviegoing public remains to be seen. Any so-called political film faces the challenge of simply preaching to the converted. An Inconvenient Truth likely did. But it also galvanized a movement, and there’s no reason An Inconvenient Sequel shouldn’t reignite the flame.
Watch the trailer for the original ‘An Inconvenient Truth’: