Al Gore cuts an unusually isolated figure – shot from behind, head bowed in thought – in the documentary 'An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power'. For all the dire environmental warnings in Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s serviceable follow-up to Davis Guggenheim's sharper 'An Inconvenient Truth' (2006), Gore's lonely crusader is the new film’s most interesting angle. Even as he builds his global movement of activists, the former Vice President is now separated from his wife (unmentioned) and a 'recovering politician' (his words). He's on a career tangent that wasn’t in the game plan. When the film focuses on Gore’s personal touch – cracking jokes with an unlikely Republican ally, or showing off photos in his large, empty Tennessee home – it works as a kind of oblique profile in sacrifice.
Eco-warriors will come to the movie with different priorities, of course. Conditions have worsened in the decade since the first film, and this material is alarming to watch: flooded roads in sunny Miami Beach (virtually underwater), exploding glaciers melting into a gushing mess, cracked desert ground where lushness once prevailed. The elephant in the room, Donald Trump, gets some audio time, confirming his denial of a reality that’s right before our eyes. But elsewhere, too much of the film’s hard science feels blandly presented and sluggish – there’s got to be a better way to energise people than with charts and graphs.
Gore, however, allows himself to get angrier these days (even if he apologises for it afterward, like a decent Southern gentleman), and his change in tactics is palpable. Conversely, there’s a fascinating window into the sensitive world leader he might have become, as he suspends his single-minded efforts in the wake of the Paris terror attacks with a heartfelt message of solidarity. Alas, this is a film that builds to a backroom compromise on carbon emissions, not the most thrilling of climaxes. The serious issue of global warming won’t be minimised by a mediocre doc, but it has yet to find a filmmaker inflamed with rage and visual passion.