out of Five
Running time: 90
Engaging, well made and impressively researched documentary with remarkable access to its four fascinating subjects and, unusually for a doc with a strong eco-friendly theme, a genuinely hopeful conclusion.
What's it all about?
Revenge of the Electric Car is a sequel of sorts to director Chris Paine's 2006 feature documentary Who Killed The Electric Car?, which traced General Motors' (GM) development of the first modern electric car, the EV1, only for them to abandon the idea, recall them all and crush them (much to the devastation of Danny DeVito, who was one of the first owners and fondly reminisces about the EV1 here). However, by 2010, things have changed considerably in the car industry, with many insiders now regarding the mass-market electric car as a foregone conclusion.
To that end, Paine traces various developments in the industry and profiles four men who are closely involved with developing electric cars: industry legend Bob Lutz, now high up at GM and an outspoken champion of the electric car, who attempts to get their hybrid car the Volt off the ground; billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who sinks his personal fortune into trying to get the Model S produced via his company Tesla (while also going through a highly stressful divorce and financial situation); Nissan's bullish, no-nonsense French CEO Carlos Ghosn, who pushes ahead with the mass-market design of electric car the Leaf; and Greg “Gadget” Abbott, a gifted mechanic who has dedicated himself to converting classic cars into electric vehicles.
Considering that Paine must have been considered something of a Michael Moore-style trouble maker last time around, he has been granted extraordinary access to the upper echelons of the car industry for his latest film; indeed, if ever there was a need for a DVD extra, the story of how he went about securing that access is surely every bit as intriguing. At any rate, it pays off and eventually you begin to understand what's in it for Lutz, Musk and Ghosn, as each of them is convinced the time of the electric car is fast approaching and all three seem to be keen for a mention in the history books (one particular highlight has Lutz and Musk running into each other at a car show and grudgingly admiring Ghosn's on-display Leaf design).
The four main subjects are a fascinating bunch and full of personality (though Musk's scenes with actress girlfriend Talulah Riley are excruciating and a little irrelevant; they've since been both married and divorced) and Paine also includes some top-notch talking heads, most notably journalist Dan Neil. Each of the men also faces enormous setbacks along the way (the financial crisis hits during filming and has a huge impact), which only makes the conclusion that much more satisfying.
Revenge of the Electric Car is a well made, entertaining and ultimately uplifting documentary that will have you seriously considering buying an electric car.
Revenge Of The Electric Car (PG)