There is no doubt that Leonardo DiCaprio’s intentions are honorable in trying to inform us about the state of crisis our planet is in with “The 11th Hour,” or that his knowledge of the subject matter is secure.
DiCaprio, who narrated, co-produced and co-wrote the documentary, created a foundation to make people aware of environmental issues back in 1998, at the height of his “Titanic” superstardom when he could have been dating supermodels. (Oh wait, he’s done that, too.)
You just wish he’d have chosen someone to direct who had a little more visual panache. Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, sisters who wrote and directed the film, clearly worked extensively to amass a large number of expert perspectives on every facet of the topic, from global warming to dependence on fossil fuels to energy-efficient architecture.
But the result feels like an onslaught of information — a never-ending parade of talking heads (54, to be exact) including Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev and former CIA director James Woolsey. There’s also Kenny Ausubel, founder of Bioneers; conservation biologist Stuart Pimm; and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, just to name a few others.
In trying to encompass everything, “The 11th Hour” ends up being completely daunting viewing that might just make your head explode. It’s like sitting through a college lecture and knowing with gripping dread that you’re going to be quizzed on all of this afterward.
Martin Scorsese would have taken such potentially dry material and turned it into a visceral experience; James Cameron probably would have done it in underwater IMAX 3-D.
Like DiCaprio, Conners and Petersen obviously have their heart in the right place, and the right message at the right time. We’re in a pretty dire situation, as “An Inconvenient Truth” warned us last year. But “The 11th Hour” strives to go beyond global warming to include corporate greed, political accountability and much more. They initially do this through a staggering, Bunuel-esque montage of images — everything from floods and hurricanes to an infant in a womb and guys gesturing wildly on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It’s a brief history of ... everything!
Then as the film continues, they intersperse such footage among the litany of interviews; striking as the visuals can be, they’re really nothing you haven’t seen before. DiCaprio does look appropriately somber and concerned, though, as he shows up time to time to talk to us while standing in front of some beautiful but endangered natural setting.
Because you’re bound to be squirming in your seat wondering, “What can I do to help aside from recycling and shutting off my computer at night?” thankfully, they also provide some answers.