On Friday Manohla Dargis reviewed "The Unforeseen," a documentary on a local environmental issue from Austin, TX. Headlined "In the Heart of Texas, a Greenbelt's Inconvenient Truth," the critique gave Dargis another opportunity for more liberal moralizing on the environment from movie critic Dargis, who also thinks "Fahrenheit 9-11" is "an essential political film."
In October 2002 a Texas developer named Gary Bradley e-mailed The Austin Chronicle that all he ever really wanted to do was to make movies. It's doubtful that the politely muck-raking documentary "The Unforeseen," in which the developer persuasively plays one of the film's villains, is what he had in mind.
Mr. Bradley e-mailed the Austin newspaper after he declared bankruptcy, in the wake of a spectacular flameout. His story takes up a fair share of time in "The Unforeseen," a film with a great big subject, or rather a handful of great big subjects, among them the rights of man, the death of nature, the water below, the air above and all that going, going, gone green in between. It's a political film of sorts with no overt politics despite the on-screen, if fleeting, presence of Earth First!, the environmental group. Mostly it's a slice of depressing regional history and a cautionary tale with global implications. In other words, this is a story about inconvenient truths and fighting the good fight against some very bad people.
There's a lot of heart and soul here; at the same time, there's also too much Robert Redford, one of the film's executive producers, whose misty if brief on-camera musings and celebrity prove distracting. (The other executive producer, the Austinite Terrence Malick, remains off-screen.) There's nothing wrong with Mr. Redford and his love of nature. But there's something irritatingly softheaded about the generic, nostalgia-tinged blandishments that the film finally resorts to - a Wendell Berry poem, a grizzled old farmer wielding a sickle - in place of truly hard questions and solutions that may effect meaningful change. With the polar ice caps melting, I want more than poetry and blame. I want a plan.