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The Cove (2009)

March 5, 2010

9/10 Toxic Fish Sticks

Saving the dolphins with Ocean’s eleven. Sounds bizarre, but it’s freakin’ amazing.

The Cove is about a documentary crew that teams up with one Ric O’Barry – the guy who trained Flipper and, after learning the error of his ways, has since devoted his life to freeing dolphins from captivity  – to expose the dirty secret of Taiji, Japan where dolphins are being slaughtered by the thousands thanks to the help of a mass government cover up.

When I first heard about this movie, I was of the mindset that this was going to be nothing more than ASPCA jibba-jabba about how animals have rights too and if I’m not out there on a dingy circling deep-sea whaling ships with a giant poster in hand then I’m part of the problem. Thankfully, this movie does a great job of not guilt tripping its viewers (unless, you know, you club seals on the weekends) and totally lives up to the hype it’s garnered as the eye-opening powerhouse doc of ’09.

The structure of The Cove plays out very similar to Man on Wire, and that right there is a good quality to have. Right from the opening credits where we’re introduced to the director and his crew in the dead of night as they film themselves illegally breaking into a place they’re clearly not allowed to go, you’ll get the gist that this is not a sit-back-and-get-ready-t0-be-educated kinda trip. Make no mistake, this sucker is intense and a lot more entertaining than a documentary about the plight of dolphins should have any right to be. Man, the last time I was so on-edge watching a movie was probably Star Trek and there aren’t black holes or anything like that here.

It’s just dolphins, people who love dolphins and people who hate dolphins.

And that’s why this movie worked so well for me, not only because of the way it uses real life to create a thriller the likes of which Hollywood hasn’t come up with in ages, but because it’s just an important movie about a story that needs to be told, especially since no one else is talking about it. Sometimes it absolutely boggles the mind to see the depths of the human soul and how far a blind eye can be turned when a big fat dollar sign is staring someone in the face, and you’ll see a lot of that here. All director Louie Psihoyos (no idea how you pronounce that) has to do is just point the camera and he’s got his villains, heroes and suspense right there waiting for him, but that’s not to take away from everything he does well because he puts it all together like Ric O’Barry is actually the aging version of Jason Bourne.

Isn’t it great to come across documentaries that make chumps out of movies with actual scripts to work with? Time to up your game, writers.

It’s pretty bizarre how over time we’ve come to view dolphins as nothing more than big fish in a bigger tank that are better off in captivity where they’re free from predators and can jump through hoops for us in the meantime. You won’t get it just by reading this review, but these mammals are smart, way smarter than we give them credit for and too smart to shacked up in a cage. There are some scenes here of dolphins interacting with humans – the ones that aren’t trying to kill them – that left me stunned and thoroughly convinced that O’Barry isn’t just some nutjob with a Peter Benchley crisis, but rather much more in tune with these creatures and what they’re capable of than the actual nutjobs that are butchering them. These aren’t just mindless fish we’re dealing with, they’re rational, thinking beings that are being treated like mindless fish, and if you don’t see it now, you’ll see it soon enough.

And I hate to sound like a hippie, but what the hell is up with SeaWorld? Really, what’s the draw and is it that important to us to have sea life on display at the cost of taking them out of their natural habitats? I don’t know, in light of recent events at the said water wonderland, you can’t help but think about these kinds of things. Was never a huge fan of aquariums to begin with, but I’ll be happy hitting up YouTube the next time I want to see Shamu doing cool stuff.

I’d be awfully surprised if The Cove doesn’t win Best Doc this year, even though I’m still sore that, for some reason beyond my understanding, Anvil! The Story of Anvil isn’t even in the running. But alas, this is an outstanding documentary in its own right that does a great job of pulling back the curtain, getting you angry and keeping you amazed from start to finish. Who knew this story was out there and that it could be anywhere near this captivating?

Dolphins, man. Crazy.

And keep your eyes peeled for Hayden Panettiere as a surfing protester for the dolphins. Wasn’t expecting her to turn up, but hey, way to go, Hayden!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Branden permalink
    March 5, 2010 3:02 pm

    I had the same vibe when I saw this movie. It was like Ocean’s Eleven meets Flipper.

    I knew that it was horrible how marine life are captured and forced to perform trick. I never went to SeaWorld. I loathe the circus.

    I was surprised that the Japanese govt screened this movie at their festival.

    Wow! This doc made me feel more empathy for the dolphins.

  2. March 5, 2010 4:51 pm

    The Japanese gov’t made a huge effort for this film to go away. But weirdly enough Ben Stiller championed it overseas. Ben Stiller!

  3. March 5, 2010 8:30 pm

    toxic fish sticks… gave me a laugh

  4. Kevin permalink
    March 6, 2010 12:20 am

    I haven’t seen this so I can’t say if the mention this is the movie, but, not only is there high levels of mercury in Dolphin meat, but the way it is often prepared raises the potency significantly (Shark Fin Soup, for example, raises the potency by 300%).

    But hey, just because something is intelligent hasn’t stopped people from killing it before, probably not gonna change any time soon.

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