Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Cove (2009)


In Taiji, Japan 25,000 dolphin are captured every year, while several hundred are sold to amusement parks, tens of thousands are killed for meat and the world knows very little about it. Members of the Oceanic Preservation Society, and talented film specialists, group together to capture footage of an elusive cove, where much of this takes place away from the public eye.

I'll admit I don't watch a lot of documentaries, as such when I watch one it's because I've done a lot of research into the reviews of such a film. The Cove is one in which I've heard nothing but positive feedback about, and have sense come to witness. In terms of setup the documentary reminds me a lot of last years Man on Wire. Short, about a group of people attacking a single mission, and all the complications that come with it. Where The Cove separates itself from that is in its willingness to address its message. It tackles the variety of issues with dolphin and whale hunting, the declining fish and ocean conditions, and most importantly the impact of people's standing ignorance to the issue.

These issues include mercury poisoning, the social anxiety of dolphins in captivity, and the strong relation between humans and dolphins. Perhaps my greatest fear going into the film is how would it manage to persuade us we should care any more about dolphins than we do a cow, bass, or pig, which we kill by the hundreds of thousands. To attack this the filmmakers concentrate heavily on the topics mentioned above, hoping to display the Japanese as evil bureaucrats seeking to erase an entire species for their own good. On one hand this does make for effective documentary, but alas leaves out an entire side of the argument, except for the ones that they deem comically applicable. As a film watcher this works, but as a critical thinker it hardly succeeds to discuss the larger issues at hand (which I won't go into because this is a review, not a political piece).

As for the documentary itself it is captivating, the final minutes are quite powerful when the footage is finally shown to the viewer, but at times it does come off a bit over the top and cheesy. Not always detailing the fine lines between what we should be allowed and what we shouldn't be allowed to kill, really hurts the long term integrity of the film, while it will likely rile up its already staunch supporting crowd. Of course that doesn't mean I'm not with its message, it has everything you'd want in a documentary, except for the true closure of its issue. Of course I can't help but watch this and wonder if it's really as good of a documentary as people say.

The Cove relies far too heavily on peoples' aww factor when viewing dolphins, instead of attacking real issues. Of course I regress in that as a documentary it'll likely do a good job of informing its viewer of what it deems as a crucial issue, which is at the heart of every documentary. They're not built to think for you, nor tell you what you're supposed to do, they call to arms those that are willing, but those that are not need simply turn it off once it is complete. That's what The Cove does most effectively, regardless of where you stand on such issues.

While captivating, and filled with a great message, The Cove tries too hard to be both a global statement and a single statement, holding it back from its grand potential.

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