(Reprint from our Sundance 2009 coverage. The film opens this weekend, so go find a local theater!)
Wow. Just wow. This is easily one of the most powerful, heartfelt, and (yes, I'll say it) important 'nature' documentaries I've ever seen. Here's a brutally honest and effortlessly fascinating film about one specific cove in Taiji, Japan, in which approximately 23,000 dolphins are killed every year. Yes, you read that right: 23,000. Dolphins. Annually. And here's the really twisted part: Given the amount of mercury that's found in these creatures, they're practically poison. But where there's money to be made, there are atrocities to be committed.
So while most of the better "socially conscious and angry" documentaries are forced to look at a tragedy with years of hindsight, The Cove is so timely it almost hurts. This is not a film that looks backward and says "Jeez, what a shame that was," but one that screams "Look at what's happening right now, and we really have to stop it!" As this masterful documentary states its case, we're introduced to a bunch of key players: Richard O'Barry, former dolphin trainer and longtime advocate for the animals; filmmaker Louie Psihoyos, who spearheads a massive effort to expose this sickening practice; a pair of world-class free-divers who gladly throw their skills into the mix; and an extra handful of daredevils, tech experts, and cameramen who are willing to risk a month in a Japanese jail ... just so they finally can get some video footage of these secret slaughters.