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Review: The Cove

The Cove
08.03.2009
10 10

PLOT: A tiny, unassuming cove in a small Japanese fishing village has been the sight of an unfathomable injustice for years. Over 23,000 dolphins are brutally rounded up and slaughtered every year, while the government looks the other way. Now, armed with a wad of cash, a whole lotta guts, and a slew of cool toys to play with, a brave team of adventurers and activists will go “behind enemy lines” to show the world the truth. 

REVIEW: Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, consider yourself warned: there’s a new documentary filmmaker in town, and he means business. The Cove is a stunningly accomplished and effective piece of non-fiction, one I still can’t believe came from the hands of a first-time director. The man I’m heaping praise on is Louis Psihoyos. A former National Geographic photographer and founder of the Oceanic Preservation Society, Psihoyos is a far more modest and unassuming man than the two previously mentioned documentarian titans. And yet, the subjects he chooses and the way he tells his story with The Cove are perhaps more engrossing than anything I’ve ever seen in a documentary. Yup, I said it. When the film opens with Psyihoyos cautioning “I do want to say that…I tried to do this story legally…” you just know you’re in for some fireworks.

We’re introduced to the plight of the Taiji dolphins by another man of striking presence and prestige, Ric O’Barry, the former trainer of the world’s most famous dolphin, Flipper. After the tragic death of one of his prized dolphins, O’Barry had a sudden change of conscience, and has devoted his life to saving cetaceans world-round ever since. In the opening scene, O’Barry drives through the tiny town of Taiji, Japan, keeping his white face shrouded to throw-off numerous locals out to harm and potentially kill him. And thus the stage is set for one hell of a thrill-ride, a journey made all the more engrossing and devastating by the fact that it’s all completely real.

The titular cove is completely cut-off from public view, and that’s the way the local fisherman want it; the bloody massacre that occurs there yearly is reminiscent of the most gruesome Lionsgate torture flicks (ironically the film is being distributed by Lionsgate). To get access to this private cove, Psihoyos and O’Barry assemble a crack team of adventure junkies, composed of the world’s greatest freedivers, a former military special-ops soldier, and then some. The team comes amazingly well-funded (and well-connected) as they bring in the most high-tech surveillance audio and video gear around, employing the services of former ILM employees and other industry bigwigs to develop some truly clever hidden cameras and underwater devices for their scheme.

But the real genius behind the film is how it is able to interweave this storyline with a larger narrative, one that divulges fascinating information about dolphins, their extreme intelligence, the conspiracy-esque reasoning behind their slaughter, and their worldwide treatment as a whole. The filmmakers get unprecedented access to International Whaling Commission summits and grab interviews with some of Japan’s most notorious whaling villains, many of whom come across more devilish then the most infamous Hollywood villains.

Psihoyos’ photography background serves him well here, as visuals- especially underwater ones, are crisp, vivid, and almost dream-like in nature. The score, which seems almost non-stop, is equal parts soothing and heart-pounding and compliments the images on screen to perfection. Despite the film’s deeply serious message, The Cove rarely feels grim or heavy-handed; everything here is very easy to access for the common audience member, and the narration feels less like a lecture than a conversation, which helps us connect with our on-screen heroes.

In the film’s final act, when these brave men and women finally execute their plan, I guarantee you’ll not only be on the edge of your seats, but by the time the credits roll, you’ll be clamoring for the nearest tissue. I literally cannot find a flaw in this film, and for that very reason, I’m giving it my first ever perfect 10.

If you’d like to find out how you can help the Taiji dolphins, head over to www.SaveJapanDolphins.org today.

Source: JoBlo.com

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