After all the published studies, the consciousness-raising concerts and Professor Al Gore’s Traveling PowerPoint Medicine Show, is there anybody who still isn’t convinced that our big blue marble is going to hell in a handbasket? This hectoring eco-mentary lays out a litany of testimonials to sway the handful who consider global warming either neoliberal whining or a nonexistent threat. A number of “independent experts on the frontline”—a term that encompasses everybody from tribal faith-keepers to Stephen Hawking—theorize that the recent abundance of natural disasters is symptomatic of a larger global breakdown. Corporate interests [cue booing, hissing] have also contributed to untold environmental damage, and human beings must find alternative methods to help an infected Mother Earth. The sky may not be falling, but the rest of the planet is pretty fucked.
Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen’s solar-powered jalopy of a doc, however, isn’t a vehicle that’s likely to bring this message to the masses. The duo employs a numbing repetition of form—talking-head interviews, news footage, rinse, repeat—and constantly recycled factoids that grate over time. It’s less a Discovery Channel special writ large than a dry classroom lecture; when celebrity narrator Leo DiCaprio shows up to drop some science and stare soulfully into the distance, he looks seconds away from shedding a tear à la Iron Eyes Cody from that early-’70s antilittering ad. If there’s a lesson to be learned from The 11th Hour, it’s that a good cause presented without grace ultimately becomes a lost cause.