Year – 2013
Country – U.S.
Length– 77 mins
Production company – Black Chalk
Director – Gus Holwerda
Staring – Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ricky Gervais and Cameron Diaz
I’m sure that many IV readers are what we could call ‘unbelievers’. Whether that means they are totally doubting of mainstream religion or just skeptical- in fact a large portion of people in the Western World are becoming less and less afraid to challenge the religious status quo. If you are an atheist like me, this film may appear appealing, but please don’t expect a fulfilling and intellectually stimulation 77 minutes from this flick- you will be left underwhelmed.
The Unbelievers follows the trail of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they travel around the world to speak in auditoriums, at an Atheist convention and on television about the vital importance of reason and rationality in the 21st century. Richard Dawkins will be, to at least our UK readers, a very familiar face, having become the biggest figurehead for non-believers in mainstream television, radio and publishing. I was less familiar with the New Yorker Dr Krauss, a Lilienfield Prize winning physicist who argues the case for atheism from a scientific and cosmological perspective.
The documentary does not deliver crushing arguments to the viewer, nor does it provide explosive confrontation between believers and unbelievers. Director Gus Holwerda instead takes a neutral approach, simply showing the audience a few weeks in the lives of two of the most relevant and esteemed intellectuals around. With this laid back style of directing however, the film has few peaks of energy, and the unexciting relationship shown between Dawkins and Krauss is not going to have anybody talking anytime soon. Short clips from celebrity interviews, featuring Stephen Hawking, Ricky Gervais and Cameron Diaz are so short, and in even the case of Professor Hawking, so unremarkable that their inclusion does nothing to create a change of pace for the film.
For particular fans of these two professors however, it offers a kind of geek-out insight to their ‘life on the road’. We see them explore Sydney’s bustling city, prepare for public appearances, and relax in their hotels. However, none of this is very exciting- unless you are a borderline obsessive fan. Holwerda’s attempt to make this movie feel epic by using an excessive amount of generic e establishing shots just makes this feel like a librarian’s Spinal Tap film.
This doc is therefore never going to have an impact on the mainstream consensus, propelling as it does the ideas of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss in a very sedate and unmemorable way. It’s only the charm of the pair therefore that makes this film worth watching- and of course the sight of Richard’s various eccentric patterned ties. If you want astounding arguments and dramatic debates- there are much better clips from both men to be found on YouTube.