My local arthouse cinema was showing The Cove this evening, and I eagerly went out to see it.
It's hard to describe in a few concise paragraphs just how I felt walking out of The Cove. It was exhilarating, mesmerizing, horrifying, illuminating, devastating, inspiring... I get the distinct feeling that I've just seen the best movie of the year.
The story of The Cove actually goes back to the 1960's when Ric O'Barry was head animal trainer on the hit TV show Flipper. Fast forward more than 40 years, and O'Barry is now one of the foremost activists and protesters against the capture and captivity of dolphins, a multi-million dollar industry for which he feels partly responsible. His biggest target is the small Japanese coastal village of Taiji, where thousands of dolphins are slaughtered every year for their meat, which is less expensive than whale meat (but contains much more mercury).
Having been arrested more times than he can remember, O'Barry is no stranger to pulling daring stunts for his cause, but director Louie Psihoyos realized he needed more help to bring down the cruel operation concealed in Taiji. So he assembled a crack team of divers and technicians to infiltrate the closely guarded cove where the slaughter takes place and plant cleverly hidden cameras and microphones (both above and below the water) to capture the incriminating footage.
It is in his structuring of the story that Psihoyos makes The Cove such a success; Seamlessly interweaving his clandestine activities with the political background of Japan's whaling and fisheries, revealing governmental cover-ups and misdoings that have gone unacknowledged since the 1980's. This both keeps the film firmly grounded in reality and heightens our anticipation for the continuation of the cloak-and-dagger story arc. Constructed like a pulsating heist movie, it's more thrilling than most of the fictional product emerging from Hollywood today. It's perfectly edited, energetically scored, and features some truly miraculous photography.
But all the excitement, danger, and even humour of our heroes secret mission is quickly left behind when we finally get to see the footage they attained. Presented in its grisly entirety with full unadulterated audio, it may well be the most flooring and disturbing piece of cinema you'll see all year. You don't want to watch, yet you can't look away. That such horrific massacres having been happening regularly in Taiji for decades is staggering.
To say that Psihoyos, O'Barry, and their team deserve every award that's coming to them this year would be a gross understatement. They all deserve medals of honour. More so than an ingenious display of guerrilla film-making, their exposé of the horrendous practice exercised in Taiji is a courageous feat of environmental activism, with many real risks attached. It may not be for the faint of heart, but The Cove is a film that not only demands to be seen, but demands that everybody be part of the solution. To learn how you can help, visit www.takepart.com/thecove.
An Oscar nomination in the Documentary category should be obvious, but this branch has missed the boat before, so I won't get too excited. Besides, the category where it really belongs is Best Picture, along with Director and Film Editing, and we know that won't happen.
**** out of ****