It’s always a curious task, reviewing a documentary. How exactly do we shift from fiction, where we demand beautiful dialogue and texture and drama and costumes to the real world, where we’re observing truth, not building a dream vision. I always come back to a handful or considerations, that are, for better or worse, what I measure a documentary against. 1. Is it compelling? 2. Does it take me on a journey? 3. Do I want to know more? 4. If this documentary is designed as a statement for or against something, does it present a solution? In the case of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the answer to all of those questions is yes.
With a figure like Al Gore at its center, and a focus on his efforts around climate change, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is also a picture that runs the risk of alienating the people it aims to speak to before they ever enter a theater. As someone who was inclined to agree with the core message around the importance of climate change from well before I knew this picture was coming out, I cannot speak to how well the picture manages to make its case to someone of a differing view. I suspect that despite some nice moments of across the aisle cooperation being showcased, this picture will fall firmly in the realm of preaching to the converted. But as someone coming in with an already present interest in the topic, I found the themes explored fascinating.
From the patterns that are identified to the discussion of renewable embrace around the globe, to scenes from behind the scenes of the Paris Climate Accords, I learned a quite a lot. And that alone would have been enough to keep me tuned in. But as a person keenly interested in character studies, I was treated to an angle that took me by surprise. The emotional trajectory of Al Gore in the wake of the Supreme Court decision around the 2000 election through the response to An Inconvenient Sequel, and on to the Paris negotiations and bey0nd. The picture covers a vast spectrum that reveals the human trials and tribulations of a man placed on a path he didn’t imagine, but has indeed embraced as his calling. As much as the science and nature scenes were eye-popping, I was riveted by quiet moments of Gore watching election coverage between meetings. Watching his brow furrow with concern and then the moment where he puts his wheeling and dealing face back on to rally others to the cause, even as everything he’s worked for hangs in the balance.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is inarguably the movie supporters and critics alike will expect. But for every bit of science and aspirational stopping power, it hums with humanity — and that gives it staying power.