Film review – A Crude Awakening: the oil crash


Rating: 3/5

The consensus from our two reviewers is: go and see this film, it’s worth the trip to the cinema, but walk, don’t run.

Oil wells will eventually be a thing of the past as supplies dwindle


Less of an awakening, more of a gentle nudge – with the possibility of a full English (and only then if the café’s still open).

Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormick present the history, and future, of the oil industry in just 83 minutes, alongside quirky archive footage and breathtaking landscape shots. Although not a film to stir one’s loins into an allotment, certainly a bleak enough take on the oil crisis to send the average punter screaming to the high street to open a savings account.

A Crude Awakening opens with the blood (oil) of the world on its hands. Emotive statements and a nostalgic look back at the naivety of human race leads us into shocking statistics, and a clear finger pointing to all of us. What follows is a grim, and irredeemable, image of the future – a future set to take hold within our lifetimes.

A Crude Awakening bats at a higher level than most environmental films, partly due to its heavy hitting talking heads. From a former Exxon consultant to the director of Shell, the men in the know finally talk candidly about the future of our love affair with the black stuff.

An informative and hard edged film, but not a unique or charismatic one. Unfortunately this film has failed to aim directly at it’s target audience, too samey for the environmentalist, too information heavy for the idle consumer.

For a newbie wanting an introduction to the oil issue this is the perfect film, excellent footage and a good narrative throughout. But regardless, watch it, be inspired, do something about saving our planet.


It’s necessary to avoid thinking about certain problems, because they can’t sit comfortably with modern life. It’s clearly wrong that many people across the world are whilst those of us fortunate enough to live in an affluent industrial nation have more than enough to eat, but the scale of the problem is so overwhelming that it’s necessary to ignore it for a comfortable existence.

The world’s dwindling oil supply fits neatly into this category: we all know in the back of our minds somewhere that resources are finite and that our current oil-dependent lifestyles can’t last forever, but it’s far easier to push the thought aside and reach for another (plastic) cup of (imported) coffee than it is to engage with the problem.

A Crude Awakening forces the viewer to acknowledge and consider the looming oil crisis. A sinister soundtrack and dramatically blunt sound bites from those in the know combine to create an extremely gloomy picture of the future of the oil industry and, indeed, our whole civilisation. The smooth, steady motion of Texan oil pumps provides a recurring motif to illustrate the relentless pace at which we are moving towards the inevitable slump in oil production.

Depressing, yes, but the claims the film made to shock the viewer were overstated; it doesn’t contain much that the average audience for an environmental documentary like this one would be completely unaware of. As always with documentaries like this, the likelihood is that the majority of the audience does not consist of those who really need to view the film.

Talking heads include environmental scientists, engineers, economists and included advisors to the oil industry, lending a sense of credibility and universality to the argument; this clearly isn’t just the case of a few scare-mongering conspiracy theorists. Some of the subjects touched on were truly terrifying – the possibility of more wars in the middle-east as the industrial nations attempt to lay claim to the resources they need; the increasing power of fundamentalists in the most oil-rich nations; and the collapse of the stock-market as we realise that without plentiful, cheap energy, life as we know it is unsustainable.

However, the self conscious production was slightly irritating and distracting, with frequent switching from one scene to another, and I was left feeling that none of these subjects had been covered in sufficient detail. In their attempts to sex-up their subject matter and follow in the footsteps of commercially successful documentaries such as those of Michael Moore, the producers sacrifice content to style and risk patronising their audience. The exploration of solutions or possible futures without oil was limited,

Despite these criticisms, this is an important film that raises questions that certainly should be at the forefront of public consciousness.

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