breaks it down for you: DiCaprio in The 11th Hour.
Future Is Now
By Ann Morrow
by Nadia Connors and Leila Connors Petersen
The two most complex systems on earth are human society and
nature, and they are on a collision course that is leading
to the extinction of the human race: Is this environmental
propaganda or a simple statement of fact? After watching The
11th Hour, a documentary on the ecological crisis, you’ll
be convinced that the demise of homo sapiens is in the works—unless
there is a “conscious evolution” in how we interact with the
planet that sustains us.
Narrated and coproduced by Leonardo DiCaprio, who appears
onscreen for brief comments, The 11th Hour clearly
and compellingly presents a dire warning on global consumerism
and its catastrophic results without any hedging or sugarcoating.
As one of the film’s 50 interviewees puts it, “We are committing
suicide by destroying nature.” Another says, “Katrina is a
prologue,” an opinion that is supported by a montage of TV
clips of cataclysmic weather events such as tornadoes, flash
floods, droughts, and wildfires that provides frightening
confirmation that “Katrina was not an isolated incident.”
The format for The 11th Hour is simple enough: talking
heads spouting facts and conclusions alternate with news footage.
A TV newscaster says that New Orleans is no longer safe to
live in; a politician says that global warming is a hoax.
An expert explains that global warming is not a religion to
be interpreted; it’s based in science and has the support
of scientists from around the world. Each segment flows into
the next: how global warming leads to the international dominance
of the fossil-fuel industry and failures of government to
act independently of corporate interests; how economics is
accelerating our disconnect from the earth; some history of
the ecology movement; and the epidemics of diseases caused
by pollution. Though the format remains low-key, the film
grows exponentially in power and conviction. The interviewees
are highly individual, from Stephen Hawking, who talks through
a computer as he explains the “tipping point” (those few more
degrees of heat that will turn the earth into a fireball like
Venus), to a Native American faith healer who corroborates
one of the film’s most interesting arguments: that living
in artificial habitats fosters the delusion that humans are
separate from, and superior to, the natural systems (oceans,
forest cover, river flow, the ozone layer) that are necessary
for life itself.
The speakers come from all walks of life, and are consistently
thought-provoking; some of their ideas extend beyond the disconcerting
images of starving polar bears and industrial waste gushing
into a river, such as the suggestion that advertising, not
family, determines choices in the home. The concluding segment
is a hopeful call to action to implement “verdant power,”
or underutilized, existing green technologies that generate
jobs and preserve the planet’s rapidly disappearing biodiversity.
Though the film delivers an enormous amount of information,
it’s easily absorbed due to the clarity of the conversations,
the pacing, and an evocative soundtrack that augments the
inherent drama of the material. If you only see one movie
this year, consider The 11th Hour. The life you save
may be your own.
by Neil Jordan
The only reason The Brave One got the green light was
to have Jodie Foster intone things like “Who’s the bitch now?”
and “I want my dog back,” all while cradling a 9mm weapon
in her hand. The star, as famous for her private reserve as
for her tendency toward playing guarded heroines, seems to
be toying with issues that plagued her in early movies like
Taxi Driver, while seeing how a new genre (for her)
fits. It’s a weird, not-all-that successful fit.
The movie begins with Foster as radio personality Erica Bain,
a woman in love with that crazy city known as the Big Apple
and, perhaps to a lesser extent, to David, her cute doctor
fiancé (Naveen Andrews). Erica wanders the city, seeming to
blossom amid the cranes and construction, the foul-mouthed
cabbies, the urban decay. Even the fact of a bitchy neighbor
seems enchanting. These first 20 minutes or so of the movie
seem predicated on making your teeth hurt with their sweetness
and light, so much so that you really, really want somebody
to start shooting.
The pleasantness comes to a brutal halt when the couple is
savagely beaten in Central Park, in one of those scenes where
you, the audience, think, “Why in God’s name would they go
into that dark, forbidding tunnel?” Three weeks later, David
is dead, Erica is newly revived from a coma, and the police
are back to their pre-9/11 Hollywood depiction—which is to
say, rude and ineffective. Numb to everything, Erica finds
the strength to get back to work and onto the streets only
through the illegal gun she purchases. Thankfully, her dealer
has the good manners to show her how to use it, which comes
in very handy a few nights later when she fights back against
a murdering thug. What’s a girl to do?
Later, Erica is threatened by black hoods in the subway—the
same guys whom we earlier witness terrorizing a white teen
and, for good measure, a black gentleman and his grandson.
Every time Erica reaches into her handbag, we have the solace
of knowing it’s justified. She may be going insane, she may
be experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome, but, really,
isn’t she doing us all a favor? This thought enters the mind
of Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard), a lifelong cop frustrated
with his inability to nab criminals whose expensive legal
teams find loopholes, or because of laws that protect suspects.
Many times he asks his partner if the tabloid’s new darling,
the Vigiliante Killer, is actually trying to do their job,
and in Howard’s capable hands, we realize the irony and conflicted
emotion of his statement. He begins speaking to Erica, when
she asks him for an interview, and the conversations shared
by the two, involving everything from loneliness to the experience
of shooting a man, form what’s meant to be The Brave One’s
psychological heart. Trouble is, these conversations are long
and meandering, so much so that, again, you sort of long for
somebody to start shooting.
Nowhere in The Brave One is the kind of psychological
tension that might have surfaced if Mercer caught a clue a
lot earlier in the film, or if Erica disagreed with Mercer
on matters of justice. The bloody finale is, no pun intended,
a complete cop-out, designed to yet again paint the picture
of a woman out for personal justice as an aggrieved and avenging
agent with a taste for blood. The screenwriters try to humanize
the subject by including, and wasting, Jane Adams as Erica’s
friend, or that formerly bitchy, now understanding neighbor
having unusual insight into what pushes people over the line.
Perhaps these touches are necessary; after all, they do get
us away from Erica’s and Mercer’s endless chats, or Erica’s
incessant predawn roaming of murky neighborhoods. It might
have been a refreshing change of pace to see Foster totally
go ballistic, but The Brave One plays it far too safe
even with this, preferring instead to keep her taut and on
edge, but always, always in control.