‘Before the Flood’
Director: Fisher Stevens
Genre: Documentary (but the star is Leonardo DiCaprio)
3 (out of 5) Globes
Is it morally wrong to pan a movie that might save the world? We’ll say this about “Before the Flood”: It’s a harmless, if not particularly revelatory, doc about climate change that exists, essentially, to exist. It’s been a decade since “An Inconvenient Truth.” Back then, it seemed Al Gore might have swayed the opinions of those who matter: the general public and the politicians who occasionally pay attention to them. Instead climate change wound up the equivalent of a fad. And so here we are, with the environment ever-worsening; at this point it can’t to be stopped entirely, though the effects can be mollified. And once again we’re hit with a movie that tells us that, hey, this is a real thing and we’re all going to die a horrible, horrible death if we do nada.
To the converted, “Before the Flood” has little new to tell; to the unconverted — well, they’ll never watch “Before the Flood.” The only thing it has is star power. His name is Leonardo DiCaprio, and this is, in fact, his second climate change movie, after 2007’s “The 11th Hour” failed to turn the tide on gigantic waves that may eventually pummel the planet’s coasts. DiCaprio has been an environmental activist since before it was cool, and after it wasn’t so cool anymore. Still, he’s no expert. But he can stand next to experts, sometimes with his “Revenant”-era combination pony tail and bushy beard, asking them basic layman questions and then saying, “Oh my god” or, at one point, horsing around with an elephant in Indonesia.
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That sounds more fun than a former vice president, even one who topped a Buzzfeed list of hottest VPs, leading us through a power point presentation on an antiseptic stage. And yet “An Inconvenient Truth” is not only more informative but also more engaging (and funnier) than “Before the Flood,” which, despite director Fisher Stevens’ jazzy presentation and some globe-trotting, remains purely eat-your-vegetables. (Compare with Charles Ferguson's recent "Time to Choose," which a) focused entirely on things we can do and b) was rapturously beautiful in the Godfrey Reggio vein.) As a host,DiCaprio is in dreary serious mode, assuming that the mere presence of a famous and pretty face still, in 2016, carries currency. The movie itself offers some useful charts; one shows the number of climate scientists who believe it’s real versus those who don’t (three), which isn’t news but which is still gutting to see as a chart. It presents a couple alarming factoids, chief among them a trip to Miami Beach, where streets are already being flooded by rising water.
But to be honest, we’re only giving this a pass because we can’t, in good conscience, get too judgy over a movie with the best possible intentions. Please watch “Before the Flood,” then visit the url listed in the end credits, then brainwash your Fox News relatives into going green, then blackmail your congressman into passing legislation. (But don’t vote for Jill Stein.) Do anything to make sure we don’t have to see a movie like “Before the Flood” ever again — and because climate change is f—ing real.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge