Metascore
65

Generally favorable reviews - based on 14 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 14
  2. Negative: 2 out of 14
  1. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Jul 28, 2011
    50
    The problem is that the heart of the movie is McGowan. He's just not a very compelling figure. He's a bit doughy and inert.
  2. Reviewed by: Steve Ramos
    Jun 18, 2011
    60
    Instead of a topic documentary, If a Tree Falls becomes the personal story of a well-intentioned man whose passion for the environment leads to serious consequences.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Jun 22, 2011
    100
    The film sweeps us up like a thriller, forcing us to at least ask whether terrorism like the ELF's (which targeted property, never human lives) might ever be justified.
  4. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Jun 24, 2011
    60
    Despite their efforts to address most sides of this complex story, each new interview leaves us wanting to know even more. Of course, that's the sign of a compelling film - but in this case, not an altogether satisfying one.
  5. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Jun 24, 2011
    25
    In the appalling documentary If a Tree Falls, a narrator referring to an arson attack by the Earth Liberation Front solemnly intones, "In one night, they had accomplished what years of picketing and writing had never been able to do." Well, yes -- terrorism does make short work of red tape, doesn't it?
  6. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Jul 21, 2011
    83
    Never loses sight of the human beings at the heart of the conflict -- no matter what side of the conflict they're on.
  7. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jun 23, 2011
    80
    A remarkably evenhanded story about an eager young activist who was drawn down a slippery slope toward property destruction and violence, and who wound up as a baffled defendant in a widely publicized federal terrorism case.
  8. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Jul 14, 2011
    25
    Depressing. So is director Marshall Curry's avowal in the press notes that the film will leave viewers with "a more nuanced view of the world."
  9. Reviewed by: Lauren Wissot
    Jun 18, 2011
    63
    While it may not pack the rollicking drama of his first feature, Street Fight, Marshall Curry's timely If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front likewise chronicles the personal tale behind political headlines.
  10. Reviewed by: Justin Lowe
    Jun 18, 2011
    60
    Curry and co-editor Matthew Hamachek assemble the wide-ranging material into an informative, compelling story line, although details about McGowan's upbringing and early years in the environmental movement slow the narrative down and some of the footage of McGowan puttering around his sister's apartment proves too mundane to hold much interest.
  11. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Jun 21, 2011
    80
    The film's sobriety and carefully balanced arguments make it an exemplary piece of reporting, although its emotional heat rarely rises to a boil.
  12. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    Jun 21, 2011
    60
    Considering its incendiary subject, Curry's approach is disarmingly tame; perhaps reframing the debate in less volatile terms is some kind of lukewarm triumph.
  13. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Jun 18, 2011
    50
    Lacks the passion of previous Marshall Curry films ("Racing Dreams," "Street Fight") -- something mirrored in his principal character, but also something that keeps the documentary from being as sharp as it might have been, or as up-to-date.
  14. Reviewed by: Michael Atkinson
    Jun 21, 2011
    90
    Takes us through reams of fascinating drama, from the first heroic forest-saving protests to the reactive police violence and resulting dead-of-night firebombs to the core group's implosion after the FBI tightens the net.
User Score
8.8

Universal acclaim- based on 4 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. j30
    Jan 30, 2012
    8
    A compelling, well told story of one particular ELF member named Daniel McGowan. I don't want to give away too much of the story. It's an inspiring movie that makes you want to take up a cause or change something about your life. Full Review »