Country: United States
Starring: Richard O’Barry, Paul Watson, Simon Hutchins, Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, Kirk Krack, David Rastovich, Scott Baker, Louie Psihoyos, Greg Mooney
Unbilled cameo: Hayden Panettiere
Director: Louie Psihoyos
Run time: 90 minutes
Related reviews: Sharkwater
I had to include a link to Sharkwater in my review for The Cove, because the movies are as similar as two documentaries I have ever seen – both seek to raise awareness about the slaughter of peaceful ocean dwelling creatures, and both are essential viewing. Also, both movies are thrillers, as much as they are documentaries, and both are absolutely fantastic, pulse-pounding entertainment.
That being said, both are very, very sad. The Cove more so, because watching the slaughter of innocent dolphins in the coastal Japanese town of Taiji is absolutely heartbreaking. This is the first movie that made me cry since The Hottie and the Nottie, which was carnage of a very different sort. The brilliance of The Cove, however, is the method used to shoot that carnage.
When film makers and activists showed up in Taiji, they were immediately shadowed by local law enforcement and local fishermen, who were determined to prevent video from being shown of the massacre. They realized (probably rightly so) that if people the world over saw what went on in this particular cove, they would have to stop doing what they do. What follows in the film is an incredible game of cat-and-mouse as the film makers try to set up their cameras to film the slaughter, while the local cops and fishermen operate as a sort of mob organization dedicated to stopping them.
Soon, the team has cameras disguised in rocks and fake bird nests, designed by top industry professionals. They have a dolphin-shaped blimp and a helicopter circling overhead taking aerial shots of the cove. They even hire the best free-divers in the world to dive deep into the water of the cove to place cameras at the bottom of the ocean so they can film the slaughter from below. Thermal cameras capture body heat to watch for any bad guys who may be approaching.
This portion of the movie is like a real-life James Bond operation. It’s terrifically thrilling and nerve-wracking, as the activists sneak around on the hills surrounding the cove, halting their operations when their heat-sensitive cameras capture approaching guards. Movie making doesn’t get more fraught with danger than this does. A quote on the cover of the DVD says that “the film itself is an act of heroism”, and I absolutely agree. Like Sharkwater before it, The Cove required a lot more guts to film than any Hollywood movie.
The film is also great in the way it educates people about dolphins themselves. Rick O’Barry is one of the central participants in the film. He was once the dolphin trainer on the Flipper television series, until one of the dolphins he was training actually committed suicide right in front of him. Since then, he has been fighting furiously to release all dolphins in captivity, to end swimming with dolphins programs, and to save as many of these magnificent animals as he can.
The dolphins herded into this particular cove might go to some resort where people will get to swim with them. They might go to Sea World, where they will perform tricks for an audience. And those that are not chosen for these purposes are slaughtered, babies and all, to be sold for meat that will be eaten locally and all over Japan. Most Japanese people would not knowingly eat dolphin, but it is often packaged as “whale meat”, and they will eat that.
Oh – CHEZ nation – your bonus code in this review is – dolphinmeatisfullofmercury
The Japanese affinity for hunting whales is a very related problem, which is talked about on rather extensively in The Cove. The general consensus is that Japan continues to hunt whales while the rest of the world does not as a way of saying “screw you” to the rest of the world. They won’t let the rest of the world tell them what to do. However, thanks to movies like The Cove, the rest of the world now knows what it is they are doing. And it’s time we make them stop.
Watch this movie. Go to the website. It’s important.