Reviews

Al Gore harsher in Inconvenient Truth sequel, Wolf Warrior II a comic-book movie

Wolves howl and sharks bite this week, and the poor polar bears look on as their world shrinks.

In the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power (PG, 98 minutes, opens tomorrow, 3.5/5 stars), former United States vice-president Al Gore slips into the oracle-of-doom role he took in the first film (2006), an unexpected box-office success and Oscar winner.

The message here is the same, but a decade on, Gore's voice is harsher and more direct. Speaking to a crowd about how future generations will live on a drowned planet scoured by megastorms, he slips into a rant worthy of a Southern Baptist preacher.

Righteous anger is only one shade co-directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk put in their palette. Here is Gore hugging typhoon survivors in the Philippines and placing flowers on graves; there he is wowing an audience with slides showing the phenomenal adoption rates of solar panels around the world.

In a ticking-clock scene right out of the television drama The West Wing (1999-2006), he brokers an 11th-hour solar deal for India at the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement talks. The withdrawal of the US from the talks this year is a last-minute insert and a mood-killer that takes the wind out of the film's upbeat tail end.

Gore's status as the rock star of climate activism is thoroughly milked - the film puts him on a pedestal, a tone that climbs into reverence when the graduates of his climate activism courses appear, like so many acolytes. It does not help that Gore is a starchy fellow, a man who, even when he is shown mucking about with normal folk, never loses his patrician stiffness. Not someone, as they say, you might want to have a beer with.


Two sisters, played by Claire Holt and Mandy Moore, are stuck underwater in 47 Meters Down. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

In the future, might all of us need to fight off sharks in our watery, globally warmed world the way the women do in 47 Meters Down (PG13, 90 minutes, opens tomorrow, 3/5 stars)?

Two sisters, played by singer-actress Mandy Moore and actress Claire Holt, head to Mexico's blue waters for a vacation. Shady dive boat operator Taylor (a whiskery Matthew Modine) takes them on a cage dive. A mishap sends the cage, with the women inside, to the bottom.

British director Johannes Roberts handles the escape-room mechanics with competence, but without much flair. The women carry out a number of interesting plans, even as their air tanks deplete and maneaters hover.

Last year's shark-versus-woman hit The Shallows (2016) dumped viewers into the conflict from the first scene, then used action to fill in the backstory; here, characters are loaded into the first act, then largely forgotten in favour of jump scares.

Wu Jing (above) stars in Wolf Warrior II.
Wu Jing (above) stars in Wolf Warrior II. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Action thriller Wolf Warrior II (NC16, 124 minutes, now showing, 3/5 stars) opened last month and broke the $1-million mark, making it a hit in Singapore. That pales next to its takings in China, where with more than $800 million in takings, it is well on the way to being a locally made blockbuster for the history books.

Director and star Wu Jing, helmer of Wolf Warriors (2015), returns to make another comic book-style movie that blends large-scale gunplay action with gobs of patriotic fervour - imagine a script for The Expendables (2010) mashed up with a press release from the Xinhua news agency.

Here, noble members of the People's Liberation Army Navy do everything to assist rogue operative Leng Feng (Wu), who finds himself in Africa, caught in a fictional nation's civil war.

 

Do not expect a subtle, rounded portrait of a continent - this Africa is poor, where an Ebola-like disease stalks the shantytowns. Still, its people dance and bang on drums when they are happy. Watch out for lions - the country is infested with them.

Leng, the flame of duty to nation burning within him, demolishes wave after wave of Western mercenaries. The villain, played by Frank Grillo, is again an American.

This is a fun, if crazily over-the-top, experience. And if you have been raised on Hollywood fare, it's unsettling to see the good-versus-evil match-up from the Chinese perspective.

With the growing power of the Chinese movie industry, perhaps one day movies will be less about heroes blowing up the world to make it safe for democracy, but about duty-driven soldiers such as Leng, who just want to bring strong governance, smooth roads and factory jobs to all.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Of polar bears, sharks and men'. Print Edition | Subscribe