“The 11th Hour,” review by Jennifer Merin

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In “The 11th Hour,” actor-turned-activist Leonardo DiCaprio issues a global warning: global warming is rapidly reaching the point of no return, causing irreversible damage to the only planet humankind knows as home.

Hence the film’s title and transparent message: take action now, before we pass that point of no return and our fragile planet can no longer sustain human life.

DiCaprio produced, co-wrote and narrates the documentary, but he’s not our only tour guide through what is essentially a travelogue of earthly disasters– severe flooding, record rainfalls, hurricanes, acid rain, drought and the resulting famine, record-setting heat waves and all the other climatic calamities we see reported so frequently on the news, we hardly take notice of them any more.

Joining DiCaprio on camera and bolstering his impassioned presentation (and plea) with their considerable authority are former Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, renowned scientist Stephen Hawking and former CIA chief James Woolsey, among 50 additional experts with impeccable credentials.

Using their testimony, co-directors Lila Conners Peterson and Nadia Conners piece together a convincing argument that those catastrophes reported on the nightly news aren’t isolated incidents, but a chain of events that will ultimately result in Earth becoming as arid and barren as Mars.

Part of the problem, say the experts, is that there are too many of us, and not only do we continue to multiply at an alarming rate, we fail to marshal our resources intelligently. Our excessive consumption of fossil fuel is, they say, a core problem.

Along with the expert interpretation, the film presents a history of humankind’s use of energy, which indicates when and how we’ve gone wrong, and where we are now– in what might be termed ‘the age of environment,’ a crucial time in which, they say, we either change our behavior or commit species suicide. Earth itself will survive. Humans will not.

In “The 11th Hour,” global warming is more than ‘an inconvenient truth.’ In movie metaphor, it’s like that Texas-size meteorite hurtling towards Earth in “Armageddon”– only in this nonfiction scenario, humankind is the element of destruction and Bruce Willis, sure as hell, isn’t going to save the day.

Instead, the celestial Leo DiCaprio is using his star power to illuminate the pressing threat– hopefully to the degree that his fans will do more to embrace the cause than watch the DVD while consuming burgers and fries as they orbit their environs within the comfortable confines of their air-conditioned SUVs.

Sarcasm aside, this film should be mandatory viewing in every classroom around the globe. Kids are the future and, as “The 11th Hour” shows us, the future is now. And it’s looking grim.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).