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Movie Review
The Clock Is Ticking
The 11th Hour paints a dark portrait of humanity and delivers an urgent environmental message.

Leonardo DiCaprio while filming.
Chuck Castleberry © 2007 Eleventeen Productions, LLC

Some “environmental” films use dazzling scenery and cute, furry animals to inspire admiration for nature, only gently nudging viewers to consider making an effort to protect it. Warner Independent Pictures’ The 11th Hour is not that kind. It starts out swinging, with a stomach-turning opening montage of nightmarish scenes–from fires and floods to trash and toxic waste–that are unmistakably incriminating toward humans.

Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, who also served as co-producer, this 95-minute documentary calls on a powerhouse team of more than 50 scientists, journalists, and environmental activists to describe our relationship with Earth and its species, what we have done wrong, and what we can do better. Among the array of commentators: Mikhail Gorbachev, Stephen Hawking, former CIA director James Woolsey, and Greenbelt Movement founder Wangari Maathai.

Viewers should prepare to face not only graphic imagery of the devastation we have wreaked on the natural world, but dire warnings about the future (for both the environment and people), and a demand that we clean up our act. The 11th Hour, is worth seeing because it offers a compelling view of the ties among environmental degradation, rampant consumerism, corporate influence on politics, and greed.

Fortunately, the film’s misanthropic tone eventually switches to one that’s more inspirational, leaving the viewer with the message that change is possible: It emphasizes the breadth and value of human ingenuity, arguing that we can use our ever-improving technology to live in ways that benefit both the Earth and the economy.

“Healing the damage of industrial civilization is the task of our generation,” DiCaprio says, “Our response depends on the conscious evolution of our species, and this response could very well save this unique blue planet for future generations.”

The big question is: Will the film’s message reach those who are not already convinced of its truth?

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