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Leo breaks it down for you: DiCaprio in The 11th Hour.

The Future Is Now

By Ann Morrow

The 11th Hour

Directed 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.

Killing Them Softly

The Brave One

Directed 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.

—Laura Leon


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