'Truth': More Than Hot Air

Al Gore comes alive in
Al Gore comes alive in "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary on global warming and, in some ways, about Gore himself. (By Eric Lee)

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Friday, June 2, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary by Davis Guggenheim, follows Al Gore on his well-publicized world tour, in which he warns audiences that humankind faces dire climatic consequences if it doesn't curb its carbon dioxide emissions. The film also reveals how the near death of Gore's 6-year-old son inspired a personal mission to save the world from greenhouse gases.

We know what you're thinking, but as this surprisingly absorbing film shows, Gore's lectures are anything but dull. For one, they're conducted amid a compelling array of film and video footage, photographs, wall-size charts and graphs, and even animation. And for another, Gore is relaxed and energized in ways that might have changed his failed bid for the presidency in 2000.

Thus he tells audiences -- in earnest, wonkish detail -- about the isotopes trapped in air bubbles under the Antarctic ice. He explains how the emissions have elicited a biblical barrage of typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and heat waves from New Orleans to Mumbai. If all college courses had presentations this evocative and sophisticated, no universities would hurt for enrollment.

But there's more to "An Inconvenient Truth" than impressive auditorium visuals. Guggenheim intersperses the film with revealing interviews and moments away from that lectern. While Gore's onstage presentation tells us nothing new, it has a renewed -- call it recycled -- potency, in light of a growing scientific consensus about changing weather patterns. There will be those speculators who see, in their organic tea leaves, the stirrings of a presidential run. But for viewers of any stripe, there's something perhaps even more fascinating here. Between the lines, "An Inconvenient Truth" is a quintessentially American story of reinvention.

-- Desson Thomson

An Inconvenient Truth PG, 100 minutes Contains disturbing themes. Area theaters.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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