The film is essentially Al Gore's slide show on global warming. It is jazzed up with extra footage showing Al talking about his influences and his life, and with extra footage illustrating the points he makes in the slide show. But the main thing is still the slide show - Gore talking to an audience, relying on his cool graphics to make his points.
Really, the show is part of Gore's quest to save the world. It isn't anything less than that. I don't think he's in it for fame. He's passionate about making big changes fast, to save his children and grandchildren from an almost unimaginable world. He says he has delivered his slide show over 1,000 times. He feels the only way to get anything to happen is to reach people individually, and eventually a critical mass will develop that will insist on change through governmental regulations in particular, and will make changes through individual initiative.
The images are memorable and stark. The difference in the snow levels on mountains. The collapse of icebergs, the melting of ice shelves. The graphs illustrating the rate of change in carbon dioxide emissions and the rise in heat levels. And yet I still had a sense of restraint. There were no filmic tricks making this coming catastrophe seem even worse than it will be. There weren't even illustrations fully developing the messages - think, for example, of 100 million people flooded from their homes - permanently. It's too staggering to imagine and perhaps it's just as well that nobody attempted to illustrate it with more than words.
Gore doesn't just describe the changes and the projections, of course. He talks of his early idealism, his belief that when people in congress understood what was happening they'd jump on it and make changes. He talks of the framing of the issue so that many citizens actually think there is some scientific controversy here, some debate among real scientists. There isn't.
What I took away: Global warming is the no. one issue facing the planet. If it is allowed to continue, nothing else matters.
Yet when I come home to roost I think of the people I know and whether any of them will care enough to do anything. I believe most people want convenience and want to focus on their own little worlds, and don't want to be bothered. I think this film is a good step but will mostly preach to the converted - but that preaching may take the converted to new levels, which is a start. I can see myself donating more to global warming lobbies and less to some other causes, for example, and of course I will continue to behave in a reasonably environmentally responsible way, thinking all the time of those emissions.
Gore's best statement, in my opinion: "Political will is a renewable resource". I for one will be tackling my senators, asking what they are doing about, for example, mileage goals for vehicles. He also listed the changes that the federal government can make that would take us back from the brink - and they are not unreasonable changes, wouldn't really mean much to us in our everyday lives. They might mean that some industries wouldn't be making the massive profits they are now, but other industries would step in and take them. So our economic life would be fine. It's possible, in other words, without going back to the caves. But will we do it? What will it take?