A rare dose of docu-optimism arrives in the form of this generally upbeat examination into the future of electric cars.
Despite a title evocative of the ropiest B-movie horror, Chris Paine’s follow up to Who Killed The Electric Car? is in fact an entertaining documentary about the recent resurgence of the electric car in the wake of the global economic crash and growing environmental awareness.
Nicely narrated by top Hollywood liberal, Tim Robbins, and divided into enigmatically-titled chapters (The Art of War, The Long Shadow, etc..), Paine tracks four individuals, each with their own electric car-related story to tell. There’s suave General Motors PR guy Bob Lutz, who undergoes a late-blooming transformation to the electric car cause (seriously, George Clooney was born to play this guy in a biopic); competitor Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn, a ruthlessly pragmatic businessman resembling Rowan Atkinson as drawn hurriedly by a Central London street artist; successful young Turk Elon Musk of independent Tesla motors; and finally everyman outsider Greg Abbott, an earthy California native who nobly converts gas cars to electric.
The most intriguing of the quartet is venture capitalist Musk. And though the film doesn’t shy away from considering the effect that the collapse of the car industry has on normal folk, it’s with Musk that Paine appears to empathise with the most. Unlike the other subjects, we’re afforded a peek into his personal affairs. In a deliciously awkward moment, as a doe-eyed Musk looks on, his new British wife flatly proclaims, “I’d have probably said yes to anyone who’d proposed after 10 days” (Their split was announced via Twitter in Jan 2012).
Paine has an unobtrusive approach which clearly inspires trust in interviewees, and this is helpful when trying to get to the bottom of the murkier areas of the automobile industry. Proceedings are further spiced up with some zippy editing, snazzy music, and a handful of celebrity cameos from the likes of Danny DeVito, Jon Favreau and Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis (here sporting a quite excellent moustache).
Revealing about the compromises and pitfalls of big business, and not naive about the complicated ethics behind the move toward electric cars (its at least as much financially motivated as environmental altruism), Revenge of the Electric Car is a good watch, if a little too neat in its final conclusions. But, as the global financial crisis drags on, what’s wrong with a little optimism?
Is this some kind of sequel to Christine?
Snappy and engaging, if a bit too slick and cosy.
Won’t change the world, but it’s a valuable record of people who might.