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Dustin Putman

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The 11th Hour  (2007)
2 Stars
Directed by Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen
Narrator: Leonardo DiCaprio
2007 – 95 minutes
Rated: Rated PG (for some mild disturbing images and thematic elements).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 23, 2007.
"The 11th Hour" is this year's version of 2006's "An Inconvenient Truth," and it falls into many of the same traps as that overrated Al Gore sermon. Throwing information at the audience by a bunch of talking heads, the film fails to really dig beneath the surface of the problem, rarely backs up what is being said with textural, substantive data, and all in all is more concerned with emotionally manipulating the audience than breaking any new ground on the subject matter.

The rooting goal behind "The 11th Hour," directed by Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen, is certainly a valiant one, underlining the problems between man's relationship with nature and the deteriorating global ecosystem and then offering up a few ideas on how we as citizens can start to solve this pressing issue. Producing the picture and acting as narrator is Leonard DiCaprio (2006's "Blood Diamond"); his passion for the project surely comes from an honest place, but his material is the most egregious to wade through. In the occasional instances when DiCaprio physically shows up on the screen, he is either staring in close-up at the camera and prattling off an overly rehearsed monologue, or he is showing up in a wide range of places—a busy Manhattan street; a beach; an oceanside cliff; an L.A. rooftop—to silently stare into the distance with a solemn look on his face. These scenes don't work for a second. More interesting and informative would have been for DiCaprio to level with the viewer and describe the steps he personally takes as a very wealthy young man living in Hollywood to help the environment. One can only hope that the private jets he takes to zoom from one country to the next are eco-friendly.

"The 11th Hour" too frequently maneuvers footage into neat and tidy (and misleading) montages. It is easy, for example, to show a flurry of newscasts and images concerning the ravages of the weather—i.e. hurricanes, tornadoes, floods—but the film doesn't explain how this is any different than weather that the world has been experiencing since probably the beginning of time. Likewise, mentions of how the world's population has literally doubled from three billion to six billion since 1960 is surprising on its own, but the movie doesn't begin to go into how to solve this people explosion (here's a suggestion to all the homo sapiens out there: stop breeding like rabbits). Meanwhile, climactic discussions concerning the steps involved in turning the planet's ecological downward spiral around are either frustratingly undetailed or blatantly obvious.

A documentary can mean well without being successful as a film, and that description definitely applies to "The 11th Hour." The very same ideas were more devastatingly covered, eloquently portrayed and memorably handled in 1983's "Koyaanisqatsi," a visual masterstroke that didn't need a word of narration to get its point across and is as timely today as it was twenty-four years ago. "The 11th Hour" is clunkier and more obvious about its intentions. Ultimately, the built-in audience for such a picture already knows everything that directors Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen touch upon, and everyone else who might possibly benefit won't have any interest in seeing it to begin with. Thus, the film will unfortunately make no impact.

If the makers behind "The 11th Hour"—or, as one speaker none too subtly states, "11th hour and 59th minute"—truly believed in the urgency of their title, then here's a question for them: why initially release the movie on only four screens in New York and L.A., then slowly move around the country, then in six months release a DVD, then in another few months release it to a paid movie channel, and then maybe, just maybe, come to a basic cable channel sometime after that? Wouldn't the word get spread a lot faster if it were simply a television special from the get-go? If things are as dire as they are made to sound in this film, then our twelfth hour may arrive before the entirety of the globe gets a chance to see it. Sad but true, those that miss it won't be missing much.
© 2007 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman