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Movie Review Friday -- Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man

Posted Sep 24 2010 12:46pm

Escape to the movies with one of our  Movie Review Friday  selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme that's currently  in theaters  or available on  DVD . Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us  a short review  and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man (2006)

Available on DVD

Recent generations may only remember Ralph Nader as "that guy who kept falling asleep on CSPAN." But if you were to tell his parents, his staff, or any one of the "Nader's Raiders" from a few decades ago that Ralph would one day run for president or be considered somewhat of a punch line, they would have probably ushered you toward the nearest exit.

Fortunately, directors Henriette Mantel (a former Nader staff member) and Steve Skrovan, gave us Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man in 2006, exposing a fresh slice of viewers to the rise and leveling out of Ralph Nader.

As is the case with Nader's life, the documentary is easily separated into two distinct parts. Watching the aforementioned footage of Nader nodding off at the wheel, one might not suspect that in his younger days, he possessed a fiery, finger-pointing sense of justice, taking on case after case of unfair business practices or hazardous safety issues.

The first half of the documentary tells the story of Nader and his original crusades. His initial report on auto safety, entitled "Unsafe at Any Speed," was his first foray into political legislation, gaining him a government hearing and a record of infamy. It also earned him his first nemesis, General Motors, a company more than willing to sick the dogs on him. Private investigators were instructed to dig up whatever bodies Nader was hiding in his personal life, but they quickly discovered that he didn't have one.  

The film moves slowly into its thicker second half, in which Nader's eventual displeasure with a two-party electoral system hits a fever pitch, and he dives into the 2000 presidential election. This is where Nader's infamy was bred, and the "spoiler" role he earned when he was accused of stealing the election from Al Gore seems to have erased the good he accomplished in the latter part of his career. Nader explained that his motives were based on righting the ship, but his adversaries blame it more on an inflamed ego.  

From an organic documentary perspective, the film is right on the money, offering plenty of evidence that forces viewers to look at Nader in a different way. His story is told by former staffers as well those who combated him in the political arena, and not everyone has the nicest things to say.

What is best about this documentary is its ability to deliver all of the facts and mindsets of a variety of eras. Despite one of the directors having worked closely with the subject, there is an unflinching objectivity that allows the viewer to form their own conclusions, which one could assume would have made Nader proud.

--Justin Klugh


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