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Cinema Signal: No green light because of presentation issues, but it's highly thought provoking. MOBILE version |
. "The Unbelievers"

This documentary by Gus Holwerda is a road trip with two leading voices for secularism in the modern world. Science writers Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion") and Lawrence Krauss ("A Universe From Nothing") travel... and travel... to events that draw large audiences in sometimes majestic venues to hear their pitch for science and reason over faith and belief.

Their reception makes one message clear: There are a lot of secularists out there, and lots of folks who want to hear enunciated what they've been thinking. Such audiences, made apparent by the duo's itinerary, simply want a foundation for their detachment from religion from two wise gurus who live to articulate the argument in an effort to ramp up the trends in that direction.

But, as a documentary, the film leaves something to be desired in terms of boxoffice appeal. While Dawkins and Krauss can certainly stand as spokesmen for the issue, and the list of luminaries supporting their project is impressive, the film is limited by the quick in and out nature of speeches and on-the-road colloquys.

If the idea is to present these men as keen debators of the issue, we get a taste, but it's pretty much superficially treated here. It might have been helpful to represent some voice on the other side to take issue with them.

A lot of footage is devoted to connective scenes: airports, trains and taxis that I was left with the thought that a message about the shortcomings of deities and church-going isn't best conveyed in conveyances.

The filmmaker may have depended on the impact of heretical enlightenment to provide all the dramatic grip his narrative needed. But if he and anyone else want to reach the widest possible audience for this theme, the presentation needs work.

Viewers who are already in the camp of atheism or agnosticism will likely find the thematic elements attractive, and will take the snippets of reasoned argument as satisfaction of their own conclusions reached and/or behavior practiced.

Weighing in on the issue are such marquee names as Woody Allen, Sarah Silverman, Cameron Diaz, physicist Stephen Hawking, Werner Herzog, author Cormac McCarthy and Ewan McGregor in the talking heads department.

The movie is dedicated to the memory of journalist Christopher Hitchins, one of the most eloquent appostles for opposition to the comforts of religious doctrine who died December 15, 2011. If "The Unbelievers" teaches us anything, it's that two scientists have taken up Hitchen's life's work to denounce popular reliance on the supernatural and to debunk such intellectually perverse theories as the recently fabricated creationism. OMG.

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                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  

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