Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on July 31, 2009
Directed by Louie Psihoyos
Written by Mark Monroe
Cast: Ric O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hardy Jones, Michael Illiff, Ian Campbell, Paul Watson, Doug DeMaster, David Rastovich, Charles Hambleton, Hayden Panettiere, Mandy-Rae Cruikshank, Kirk Krack, Isabel Lucas
A riveting documentary which investigates the killing of thousands of dolphins by Japanese fishermen in a fenced-off, secluded cove within a coastal national park in Japan. The story centers on two men—dolphin advocate Ric O’Berry and ocean preservationist Louie Psihoyos—who assemble what could best be described as a special-ops team, who then travel to the city of Taiji and attempt to infiltrate the cove in hopes of undermining and exposing the yearly slaughter, and the people involved.
After we meet O’Barry, a proponent for the release of captive dolphins back to the wild, we get some history related to dolphins, porpoises, and whales, a look at the television series Flipper where O’Barry once worked, and marine theme parks such as Sea World, before finally concentrating on the events taking place at the cove. For a few months out of every year, fishermen herd thousands of dolphins—a tactic called ‘dolphin drive hunting’—into a small bay and choose which will be sold to the marine parks and ‘swim with dolphins’ programs. The remaining are then brought into the hidden cove, out of sight of onlookers, where the trapped animals are then slaughtered for their meat.
Though I was touched and distressed by the plight of the dolphins, I was really captivated by the sequences involving the team and their covert attempts at planting recording devices in and around the cove; it became both fascinating and informative, and at times quite thrilling. I loved how team members were recruited for their particular skill sets—a world-champion free-diver, tech specialists, and even model builders at Industrial Light & Magic—and then came together for a common cause. In a way, these moments had the look and feel of a real high-tech spy caper, with the use of thermal cameras, night-vision binoculars, and underwater sound devices all straight out of a classic Bond adventure.
Some have wondered how much of what’s being shown is fact, and how much is fiction. One report I found even stated that some of the footage had been faked…but then, it was the Japanese who were making these allegations, and Psihoyos insists that nothing in the documentary was staged, so who knows. To me it all seemed very real, and I can’t imagine how any of the footage I watched could be fabricated. Especially when you see the lengths that the Japanese fisherman and local police went to keep their ‘tradition’ from being publicized by the team’s cameras.
A well-made, well-produced documentary—winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2010—that offered many emotional stories and accounts of good people committed to helping dolphins and porpoises, with many moments of cinematic beauty (the director was once a photographer for National Geographic) as well as scenes of heart-wrenching sorrow. There were some very emotional moments here as well, both joyous and sad, so be prepared to have your heartstrings tugged in several different directions throughout. And if, for whatever reason, you’re a fan of the Japanese fishing industry, you won’t be after watching The Cove. (8/10)