David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (4 stars)

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

The beloved conservationist offers his take on the climate emergency in a persuasive documentary

Described as a 'story of global decline within a single lifetime', in this film celebrated conservationist and documentarian David Attenborough combines a brief history of his own remarkable career, including televisual landmarks like 1979's Life on Earth, with sobering statistics charting the loss of biodiversity, growth in population and rise in carbon emissions during the same period. Told with plenty of drama, this is Attenborough as political and passionate as we've seen him. 'This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future,' he explains.

Benefiting from the weight and impact of the big screen as it delivers spectacular and varied vistas and sublime flora and fauna, this feature-length video essay is directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, with Attenborough narrating and speaking frequently to the camera. As this benevolent gentleman looms large, he compellingly makes his case – aged 93 at the time of filming, and seemingly as cogent as ever – offering stark warnings for even the near future should we not mend our ways.

Made with a sense of urgency and a practical understanding of what needs to change, A Life on Our Planet manages to be critical of our actions ('This is now our planet. Run by human kind for human kind,') while avoiding too much finger-wagging, painting much of our destruction as an unintended consequence of our advancement, and drawing attention to acts of environmental conscience. It emphasises that we are very much in this together, pointing out that we share the same basic aims, with such overarching decency enhanced immeasurably by the permanent presence of a beloved guide.

In a film that boasts the potential to reach an audience beyond avowed environmentalists, Attenborough cleverly tailors his case to speak to even the most self-serving amongst us. 'This is not about saving our planet,' he argues. 'It's about saving ourselves.'

Available to watch in cinemas on Mon 28 Sep only, and on Netflix from Sun 4 Oct.

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David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • 1h 23min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Alastair Fothergill, Jonathan Hughes, Keith Scholey
  • Cast: David Attenborough
  • UK release: 28 September 2020

This time it's personal: a brand new documentary film featuring David Attenborough reflecting on the changes of his life as well as our world.