In the past five days, I’ve watched two movies that were both very well-made and very much cause to stop and think afterwards – something that I think characterizes a good movie.
This is a passionate look at former Vice President Al Gore’s fervent crusade to halt global warming’s deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it. In the wake of defeat in the 2000 election, Gore re-set the course of his life to focus on an all-out effort to help save the planet from irrevocalbe change.
In this portrait of Gore and his global warming road show, Gore proves himself to be one of the most misunderstood characters in modern American life. Here he is seen as never before: funny, engaging, passionate, open and downright on fire about geting the surprisingly stirring truth about what he calls our “planetary emergency” out to ordinary citizens.
One thing that the film does very effectively is to deconstruct the myths about global warming that have been perpetuated by those who have the most to gain by not changing course – particularly those in big business and those in the current US Presidential administration. He does this using solid scientific data, which is startling in its unanimity.
The slide shown here is one of a series that compare present-day photos of various glaciers and ice shelves with pictures taken decades ago: each shows the radical reduction in the amount of ice that exists in these places, associated with the increasing global temperature.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence provided came from ice core samples taken from Antartica. These samples have allowed scientists to take readings of air composition (from air bubbles trapped in the ice) going back 650,000 years – reading the annual layers from snow fall the same way the rings of a tree can be read. Graphing out the carbon dioxide content of the air, as well as the average temperature for the year when the snow fell, scientists show a parallel rise and fall of these two measurements.
What is startling though is that while there are natural cycles (critics of the science behind global warming routinely claim that what we are experiencing is just part of a natural cycle) indicating each of the previous six ice ages, the carbon dioxide and temperature readings for the past forty years have climbed off the chart, many times over the highest levels ever recorded in 650,000 years!
I watched the film with Tawn, Markus, Pune, Tam, and Markus’ cousin Detlev. It was very sobering and gave us lots to discuss afterwards, especially living in a city where recycling occurs (or doesn’t) invisibly somewhere further down the waste-handling chain, hundreds thousands of cars sit for hours a day idling in traffic jams, and the King is espousing a theory called the “Sufficiency Economy” which would dovetail very nicely with the ideas of reduce, reuse, recycle and live within your means.
This second movie I saw alone and it was another deeply disturbing, thought-provoking film. Director Paul Greengrass follows the doomed airliner’s flight in a narrative style but with near-documentary accuracy. There is no historical context. Instead, each person – passenger, crew, and terrorist alike – is shown as a real person involved in an inexorable march toward fate. We do not have any of the benefit of nearly five years of history afterwards, which has helped us understand what happened.
What was tremendously effective was that it felt very much like the audience was there observing, in the moment. We were just as confused as the air traffic controllers who didn’t see a pattern in the unfolding events; we are just as frustrated as the military commanders who cannot get permission to take any action and cannot even get armed fighter jets aloft; we are just a terrified as the passengers who do not initially understand what is happening but as they make phone calls to loved ones, realize that they are doomed, caught up in a series of attacks.
When some of the passengers make plans to charge the terrorists, suspecting that the “bomb” one has may be fake, there are no heroes. There are no speeches, no grandstanding, and no patriotism. Just real people about whom we know almost nothing – just as we would about fellow passengers on a plane – taking the action they think is necessary to fight for their lives.
Greengrass made a very good choice to work largely from available transcripts, using unknown actors and in many cases, actual people who had been involved in the events that day – including the man who was running the FAA’s national center that day (coincidentally, his first day after a promotion to the position) and made the brave call to shut down the nation’s air traffic as he began to grasp what was happening.
This movie is disturbing, to be certain. But it is very much worth seeing.
Perhaps one of the advantages of living in Khrungthep is that since foreign and art films are delayed in arriving here, I have the time to sort through more reviews and more personal opinions before choosing which ones to see!