Damning circumstantial evidence floods much of Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove, a superb documentary highlighting the economic, social, and political factors causing the annual slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fisherman. Using a myriad of potent interviews, telling confessionals, and not so civil acts of disobedience, the filmmakers construct a daring plan to document the operation from the inside out. It all leads to a bloody final crescendo confirming the film’s social and political thesis, haunting video footage of fisherman slowly stabbing the dolphins to death.
The images aren’t for the faint of heart, but thankfully their brutality does not define the story. The Cove is more spy film than eco-horror, focusing on undermining the process in question rather than simply illuminating the brutalities at work. Psihoyos and his devoted team get their inspiration from legendary environmentalist Richard O’Barry, who ironically got rich in the 1960’s training the dolphins for Flipper. This dynamic gives The Cove a much needed interior conflict to parallel the exterior danger the crew puts themselves in, staging reconnaissance missions into the titular cove and enduring constant harassment by Japanese police and hooligans.
Arrogance posing as tradition seems to be the root of all evils in The Cove, at least for the corrupt Japanese politicians and businessmen convoluting their message that whaling and dolphin killings are apart of their heritage. This smells like bullshit to a lot of smart, diverse people, and The Cove lines them up to deconstruct and destroy this devastating operation. The Cove presents a one-sided onslaught of information and material, avoiding a journalistic slant in favor of an all out blitzkrieg on behalf of the small cetaceans of the world. Their actions speak louder than words.