One of the most frustrating yet captivating films of 2006, Who Killed the Electric Car? is an environmental documentary that looks at the rise of popularity in electric cars in the late 1990's and the silent genocide of the vehicle only a few years later.
Electric Car examines an alternate to the combustible engine, which of course, in many ways, is a main source of pollution, vehicle cost and even wars. Electric cars were even in existence over 100 years ago, but only became truly competitive in the last decade. A few small companies developed some engines and cars that could go 300 miles without a recharge, could simple be plugged into a wall socket for a refill and could go just as fast as a normal car. Unfortunately, demand was stifled when the big car companies became involved, bought out patents and products, and essentially destroyed all existence of these environmentally-friendly cars.
The movie is frustrating on so many fronts. For starters, it has been clear for years that the world has to develop an alternate to oil-guzzling vehicles. Gas prices are only going to rise, as will pollution. Why the government and big companies are so opposed to the development of alternates is beyond me, other than the short term effects. The big car companies and oil companies are reliant on one another - a threat to one is a threat to the other. When Texaco goes and buys a patent for an electric engine that is nearly as good if not better than a gas-guzzling alternative and simply locks the invention away in its safe, there is something wrong with the picture.
2006 is the year of environmental documentaries, and writer/director Chris Paine has delivered a superb entry here. The movie is simple, clear and concise. The messaging is simple, and the facts presented here hardly seem doubtful. His footage of the last of the electric cars getting destroyed really hits home, as if you were watching human beings being massacred - he somehow manages to make the cars a character in the movie. On top of that, he has managed to gather interviews from a variety of celebrities, including Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks (via "Jay Leno").
Who Killed the Electric Car? is a must-see documentary. Its exploration of the unethical nature of the biggest companies in America and the simple solution to one of America's most blatant problem is unrivaled, except perhaps by Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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