The Cove Movie Review
Ric O'Barry is the man who caught and trained the dolphins for the 1960s TV series Flipper. And when one of them committed suicide due to the stress of captivity, he dedicated his life to freeing dolphins. As he explains, these are sentient beings whose social structures and playful natures are destroyed by being held in tanks. And over the years his attention has focussed on the town of Taiji, Japan, where many of the world's trained dolphins are caught. But even worse, the dolphins that don't make the cut are taken into a cove and pointlessly slaughtered.
Most of this documentary had to be shot using covert methods, which get increasingly complex as the filmmakers try to get footage from this top-secret cove where some 23,000 dolphins are killed annually. Along the way we meet experts, politicians, sportsmen and activists, all of whom have something important to add. The big questions loom heavily: why isn't Greenpeace pressuring Japan's government about this? Why is the International Whaling Commission (dolphins are a whale species) letting this happen unchallenged?
As this extremely thorough and balanced film lays out the facts, it becomes clear that the only way to stop this is to expose it, and a massive espionage operation pulls us in with its sheer entertainment value. There are high-tech cameras and microphones, highly skilled free-divers and special effects camera-hiding rocks made by George Lucas' special effects company. Meanwhile, O'Barry and friends are followed and threatened wherever they go.
Local fishermen argue that dolphin-killing is a cultural tradition (cut to the horrified Japanese public), while politicians say that the meat is served in schools (even though it's actually toxic with mercury poisoning). But nothing argues more loudly than the footage itself, which is simply horrifying in its sheer brutality. It's bad enough that the Japanese government has essentially bought the whaling commission while indulging in rampant false propaganda. But no other country has an excuse for letting this happen.