An Incovenient Truth is not really a very good film.

There are monologue films that are brilliantly-done works of cinema; Spaudling Gray's masterpieces Swimming to Cambodia (directed by Jonathan Demme) and Gray's Anatomy (directed by Steven Soderbergh) leap to mind as examples of one man talking for 90 minutes, done as a thrilling stylistic exercise. Davis Guggenheim, the director of Truth, lacks either the skill or the inclination to do anything of the sort. And I try very hard not to let a film off when it has nothing going on upstairs, just because I like what it has to say.

But. But, but, but. Let us this one time make an exception.

As every one of you knows by now, An Inconvenient Truth is the film of Al Gore presenting a slideshow about global warming. And I must be honest: you never, ever forget that fact. But what makes the film compelling, even necessary, is the content of that slideshow, and the passion with which Gore delivers it. In a country where large portions of the population believe that man-made global warming is a lie or a mistake, there is something needful about a man presenting one and a half hours of facts and data to prove that yes, something bad is going on and yes, it's our fault. It is just this motivation that led Gore to create his travelling slideshow, but that can only reach so far, and to a largely sympathetic audience. The appeal of making a film must be obvious (whether the film will have a less-sympathetic audience is debatable).

What An Inconvenient Truth is not: a political film. Sure, this is pretty clearly Step 1 in the Al Gore '08 campaign, but neither Gore nor Guggenheim does much stooping to make any partisan claims. Fahrenheit 9/11 this is not: there's no red meat for the base, only one or two cheap jokes at the current administration's expense. Gore puts it thus: [global warming] is not a political issue. It's a moral issue." Instead of blaming conservativism, Gore blames the short-term desire by companies to maximize profits.

I am no climatologist, and I do not follow global warming as much as other issues, even environmental ones, but most of Gore's data seems solid and fair. The blog RealClimate has a post explaining the science Gore got wrong; it is sympathetic to Gore's aim, and thus the criticisms should be more accurate than the carping of any of the many websites that would have you believe the notion of global warming is a damn dirty lie. The one fact RealClimate missed that I have seen cited elsewhere is that if the western shelf of Antarctica melted, it would raise global sea levels by 20 feet. I recall reading that this would be the effect of the whole of Antarctica melting, not just one part; but this could be fault on my part, and I would be grateful to anyone who can point me to the correct figure.

The most telling moment in the film is the oft-cited figure that out of 925 peer-reviewed articles about global-warming, not one of them disagreed about the central facts of rising temperatures and man's causation of that rise, while 53% of news articles about global warming take the postion that the cause is debated or natural. Much like the recent Intelligent Design "controversy," it seems that much of the blame for our national confusion on what should be an uncontested issue lies with our lazy news media.

Besides spewing facts, Gore includes many extraordinary images of snow melting, glaciers crumbling, and so forth (credit where credit's due: it's an amazing slideshow, even cinematic). I imagine that the hope would be to get the intellectuals with the data, and get everyone else with the visceral punch of seeing dramatic images and dramatic graphs (and they are dramatic, even gasp-worthy). My great concern is that Gore will be largely preaching to the choir; rarely in American history has there been such a widespread unwillingness to question our beliefs and opinions, and I can easily imagine that those who deny global warming will never see this film.

A few things don't work so well. Perhaps to make it more interesting, Guggenheim adds footage of Gore ruminating on the events in his life that made him a global warming crusader. It's interesting, and it's the closes An Inconvenient Truth comes to being a great documentary, but it plays a little too hagiographic and it's obviously part of the rehabilitation of Gore prefatory to his presidential run (a largely successful rehabilitation: gone is the wooden Gore of 2000, replaced with a passionate, firey man who no longer looks emaciated). I think that makes for an easy criticism by those who would see the film and the man ridiculed, and would best have been excluded.

But none of that keeps it from getting my highest, most urgent recommendation. I have never seen a film that I want to recommend to literally everyone I talk to. I have now. Please see An Inconvenient Truth. It deserves to be called something is difficult to say of a motion picture: important. This is the most important film of the year.