Movie Review: 11th Hour

By Published On: August 24, 2007

By undercutting the natural systems that sustain it, humanity is heading toward extinction without fundamental changes in the way it produces and uses energy and natural resources, warns the new documentary film The 11th Hour, featuring actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The good news, the film finds, is that technology to put human society on a firm footing abounds–from wind power to the growing fields of green building and green chemistry. The crisis is hardly technological, but primarily cultural. While that message is hardly new, what distinguishes the 11th Hour from other films and books about the human ecological dilemma is its brilliant and abundant use of imagery. The film debuted in Los Angeles at two theaters, including the ArcLight Cinema, where I was invited on behalf of Circuit. The ArcLight–considered a top film venue in Los Angeles–lies in the heart of Hollywood along media row on Sunset Boulevard, just down the street from CNN. The curtain rose after an ArcLight manager welcomed the crowd in the spacious theater–one that sports its own bar and grill. The film unwound with its spell-binding cascade of pictures–aerial shots from around the world, underwater photography, farms, satellite images, and plenty of urban and industrial landscapes. Some 50 leading ecological scientists and thinkers, from Stanford scientist Stephen Schneider to former World Bank economist Herman Daly, explained the basis of the ecological dilemma facing human society and pointed the way toward solving the crisis. As the film ended, the ArcLight cut short the credit roll and brought up the house lights for the panel session, which featured young filmmaker Nadia Conners. The director made the film with her sister Leila Conners Peterson. Conners carried out her own stool and sat with producer Brian Gerber and Andy Lipkis, who started the urban forestry action group TreePeople in Los Angeles. She explained that she and her sister used the thousands of fast-moving images to appeal to an increasingly visually-oriented young generation who she hopes will lead a movement for ecological change akin to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “I’m continually shocked by the lack of action,” she said. “We need to get out there and hit the streets.” Producer Gerber said that the documentary seeks the “democratization of information” about the crisis and aims to connect what typically are reported as disparate events in the mainstream media. The film debuted in Los Angeles and New York over the past week. This weekend–backed by Warner Brothers–The 11th Hour will open in 13 other cities across the nation and then go on to the 25 largest college towns once school starts in September. DiCaprio narrates the 95-minute documentary, which is rated PG for “some mild disturbing images and thematic elements.” Some of those images include dead marine life, assembly-line slaughterhouses, and the disposal of by-catch fish on huge fishing vessels. Editors’ note: For a more detailed version of the movie review, please see our sister publication E=MC2 – Energy Meets Climate Challenge. You can find it at

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