The Cove (2009) A Movie Review
Following the impassioned former Flipper trainer Ric O’ Barry ‘The Cove’ is a eco activist cinematic tour de force which is sure to ignite the marine conservationist in any of us. A sustained piece of advocacy film making ‘The cove’ documents Ric O’ Barry’s quest to end the slaughter stemmed from the dolphin drive hunting in Taiji, Japan.
Casting a very wide net the duality of the picture means it is simultaneously a love letter to his beloved mammals and a profound paranoid thriller of moral outrage, where anger and revulsion are awash together with genuine sorrow and huge affection for the friendliest of all marine mammals. Indeed the devastating final images must be viewed to ultimately understand the severity of this annual atrocity.
Upon meeting O’Barry we experience his obvious remorse as he recalls how he trained five dolphins for the popular 1960’s television show, Flipper. As he explained his deep love for dolphins was the driving force to literally ‘finding himself on his hands and knees, knife in hand cutting at the nets’. Since then he has re-defined himself, speaking out against dolphin captivity. He argues that all forms of dolphin captivity, especially for entertainment and educational purposes are so detrimental to these animals that they must cease. And he makes a good point. With the deafening human voices and restricted confines of their enclosures these unacceptably callous conditions are no place for the free spirited, playful and sound sensitive dolphin.
Those viewers who aren’t animal lovers may find themselves having somewhat conflicting viewpoints with O’Barry and his advocates whom appear to regard the dolphin as a higher life form. However, the film does deliver a powerful and purposeful message, especially once the uniquely barbaric slaughter of these animals is explored. O’ Barry is indignant is his opinion of the mass harpooning that occurs in the Japanese port town of Taiji, where the fisherman use sonar to intentionally lure dolphins to their demise.
Ric O’Barry is confrontational, especially with the belligerent fishermen and this leads to compelling, if a little disconcerting viewing. In Taiji he is public enemy number one with the fishermen regarding the activist as best a nuisance and at worst as an individual intent on destroying their livelihoods. The audience is forced to answer the question of whether or not O’Barry’s viewpoint is justified, or whether a greater atrocity is taking place in the cove where cameras have been banned. As O’Barry simply puts in “There is the town with the really big secret”.
‘The Cove’, produced by The Oceanic Preservation Society is the story of O’Barry’s mission to obtain hard evidence and draw the world’s attention of just what happens in Taiji. Writer Mark Monroe’s clear intelligent text traces a conspiracy of many parts, all of which can be chalked up to human stupidity or greed. From the readily availability of dolphin meat (which has been proved to contain unsafe levels of mercury rendering the meat toxic), the mislabelling of dolphin meat so a product with little public demand can be readily sold to the flat out refusal of the International Whaling Commission to take an meaningful action against the perpetrators the conspiracy is proved to be an intricate multi faceted web of lies and deceit.
Midway through the film evolves into a thrilling heist movie of sorts. O’Barry and his colleague Louis Psihoyos enlist a crack team of activists and divers to penetrate the tight security around the cove in an effort to get firsthand footage of the perceived cruelty that happens in the darkest corner of Taiji. However, at this most critical juncture for awhile the film falls a little short of expectation. Despite the crew’s ingeniously subversive methods the footage of their night vision expedition is hard to follow and despite the documented threat of 24 hour security and, as we are lead to believe, volatile fishermen an obvious sense of danger never really takes hold. However, just as the audience exhales a deflating sigh we are privy to a truly harrowing piece of footage that leaves us breathless and shaken.
‘The Cove is truly a must see documentary. The story grips you right from the start and leaves you drowning in a sea of emotion by the end. With cameos from Isabel Lucas and most memorably Heroes actress Hayden Panettiere it delivers a little shimmering star quality. In essence though it is a movie designed to shock the audience into paying attention to a little known secret. The horror of dolphin drive hunting.