‘Out of Balance’ (2007)

Out of Balance ‘ is a concise, thoughtful condensation of the Climate Change issue that makes creative, if not authoritative use of interviews and stock footage to make the case for Global Warming and the damage than man has done to the Earth’s climate. Tom Jackson has managed to package the science, politics and business concerns related to climate change into a coherent and persuasive film that’s fully accessible to a general audience.

In particular, Jackson tracks the history and growth of Exxon/Mobil, the largest publically-traded oil company, taking account of it’s failures, specifically that of the Exxon Valdez tragedy (1989) and the corporation’s efforts to control and manipulate the social and ecological damage done by that accident.

‘Balance’ is a fine informational documentary replete with many valuable interviews with scientists, researchers and stakeholders, etc. The film’s only shortcoming is filmmaker Tom Jackson’s half-serious ‘confessional’ contributions to his film.

But not everybody can be Michael Moore — Moore’s intimate relationship with his subjects — the Auto Industry, the NRA, even socialized medicine — is unparalleled because Moore takes the time to develop his narratives: As a Flint, Michigan native, he watched as his relatives and neighbors suffered because of GM’s failures; Moore consistently makes an effort to create a personal connection between himself and the institutions that he chooses to roast. In ‘Roger and Me’ it was the economic devastation reaped upon Moore’s hometown as a result of a GM plant closing. In ‘The Big One’, Moore expanded Roger ‘s technique to deal with other plant closings throuhout the United States. ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′ were expansions of the same premise, essentially looking at corporate and Executive malfeasance and it’s effect on the common, blue-collar working man. It also doesn’t hurt that Moore is a natural entertainer, who adopts a feckless, Columbo -like persona when he takes to the streets and corporate HQ elevators in search of his interviews.

And that’s the one problem with ‘Out of Balance’ — Tom Jackson is no Michael Moore — his self-deprecating monologue at the beginning of the film falls a little flat and at no point in his documentary does he create a personal connection betweenn himself and the greed-heads of Big Oil, much less the target of his documentary, the Exxon/Mobil Corporation. It has been well established that with Valdez , Exxon/Mobil perpertated one of the worst-ever ecological disasters of any major corporation — why has Exxon earned the rebuke of this film from Jackson — for an accident that occurred back in 1989? Is Exxon more guilty of damaging the environment than any of the other oil companies? More guilty than the car manufacturers for whom this oil is lifeblood?

Now, I don’t mean to diminish Mr. Jackson’s film here – rather, it just seems as though he stopped short of creating a more effective film. Rather than simply manifest a vendetta against Exxon/Mobil, he could have crafted a simple fact-based film that addresses the problems we face as an oil-dependent civilization. Of course, these movies work best when there’s an identifiable villain, but by singling-out Exxon, jackson diminishes his message somewhat.

Mr. Jackson ought to leave the self-deprecating humor to Michael Moore and simply present his interviews as the focus of his films, a technique used to it’s greatest effect in documentaries like Charles Ferguson’s ‘ No End in Sight ‘.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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