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The 11th Hour

Important, immediate, well-paced, and more than just a Leonardo DiCaprio star vehicle, The 11th Hour introduces us to environment experts from around the world.


Look out your window and take a deep breath. Cherish it, because perhaps you may not be able to someday. At least, that's what The 11th Hour tells us. This is not a peripheral storyline, a puffy Hamptons profile or feel-good tale of raising $500,000 for the local church. 11th Hour's message – reduce global warming and man's carbon footprint – is center-stage important. It's the most important issue for the coming generation or two, 11th Hour says. In the year 1800, only one billion people lived on earth, and civilization didn't create excess waste heat. In 2007, the world population is more than 6 billion. We're creating too much heat. Thus, the monumental problems. Besides aiming to teach younger audiences about our environment, 11th Hour handles political debate around corporate waste with savvy, taking the teeth out of a partisan struggle that amounts to distraction from facts.


Generation X's most famous actor and three-time Oscar nominee, Leo DiCaprio, takes center stage with 11th Hour, which he narrates (and also produced). DiCaprio appears about five times throughout the film, usually on a mountaintop or similarly picturesque landscape, breaking up 15-minute chunks of occasionally boring material. DiCaprio doesn't appear to be acting, of course – or at least that's the idea. He does, however, break the veneer of celebrity/activist illusion, winking with one eye when talking to the camera, as a car salesman or politician would. 11th Hour also employs a choice of sourced intellectuals, including Mikael Gorbachev, Stephen Hawking, ex-C.I.A. head James Woolsey, and Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who all cross cultural and ideological lines. Spiritual experts lend their voice, as do scientific and historical experts, giving the movie a comprehensiveness in its disciplines. Each person has a fascinating argument from their backgrounds.


The 11th Hour does not resemble, self-consciously, the Michael Moore-style of documentary, which is more of a pointed polemic. It's a documentary in the tradition of PBS's Frontline or Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Filmmakers and sisters Leila Conners Peterson and Nadia Conners are co-founders of Tree Media Group and are responsible for several environmental shorts they made with producer DiCaprio. Their goal is to appeal to a wide audience—and a preferably young one. Consequently, 11th Hour could be required viewing in grade schools in years to come. The film runs only 90 minutes and has a crowd-friendly breeziness, but the redundancy and lack of narrative sag in the middle a bit. Still, it keeps us alert, and if this movie proves reliable, audiences should watch this strong candidate for the Best Documentary Oscar.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 1/2 stars.