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Richard O’Barry
Louie Psihoyos
Mandy-Rae Cruikshank.
Louie Psihoyos.
Running Time
90 minutes

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The Cove
You’ll never look at Flipper the same way again

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Richard O’Barry was the world’s leading authority on dolphin training, working on the set of Flipper until tragedy struck. Years later, O’Barry and a team of activists and filmmakers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate a hidden cove in Japan and reveal a dark, deadly secret.

The Cove
With all the guile and suspense of a well-made thriller, Louie Psihoyos’ remarkable documentary plays out like a maritime Dirty Dozen, with his crew infiltrating a lagoon off the Japanese town of Taiji to uncover the wholesale butchery of up to 23,000 dolphins that the local fishermen engage in each year.

Ostensible ‘team leader’ Richard O’Barry came to fame as the trainer on the 1960s Flipper TV show until Kathy, the main ‘Flipper’, died in his arms. O’Barry insists that Kathy killed herself, an epiphany that he believes gave him an insight into the dolphin mind, turning him into an ardent campaigner to free them from captivity and prompting him to expose the grim events inside Taiji’s cove. “I was as ignorant as I could be for as long as I could be,” he explains. “I spent ten years building, and the next 35 trying to tear down.”

The slaughter is only half the story. The covert operation the team put in place links freedivers, activists and, unexpectedly, Industrial Light & Magic — all conspiring to expose a government cover-up and the dolphins’ plight. In a breathless segment, the team race to the cove under cover of darkness, avoiding the local police and fishermen who want to keep the town’s murky secret hidden, to plant film cameras stowed in fake rocks around the bay. Utilising hi-tech kit and thermal imaging cameras, they work the area like double agents planning a sting. The tension is palpable, not least because their actions seem like a well-scored action sequence more at home in a Bond film, but there’s no comfort of a second take if they screw it up.

Once the dolphins are corralled into the bay, trainers from Sea World fly in and take their pick of the bunch to transport home and train. For the rest it’s wholesale butchery to bolster a clandestine market in dolphin meat in a segment so galling you’ll be watching through your fingers, the silent bay crimson in its aftermath.

It’s not just an exercise in shock, though. The scenes of slaughter are almost an afterthought in a treatise on government corruption, the ineffectual International Whaling Commission and the very real danger of mercury poisoning that Japan (and the world) is going to have to come to terms with. It’s a story that needed to be told.

A taut, thrilling documentary that plays out like a heist movie while never overshadowing its message or activist credentials.

Reviewed by Philip Wilding

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Average user rating for The Cove
Empire Star Rating

The Cove is Absurd Propaganda

Japanese consumption of whale and dolphin meat and Japan's general spurning of International Whaling Commission resolutions are extremely complex issues that should be examined soberly. Unfortunately, the activists in The Cove—like many of the louder, more self-righteous environmentalists—skip the part where they take time to consider the multifaceted, layered issue and rush blindly in convinced the world is comprised of evil, greedy men for them to battle. Even more unfortunately,... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by at 15:12, 08 March 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Essential Viewing

i have not seen the Cove yet but i cant weight too,i watched the trailer online and read several reveiws.from that i feel that the story is very meaningfull(i was already aware of dolphin issue in japan)im also pleased that its nominated for an oscar i realy realy hope it wins.    and i feel that anyone who eats whales or dolphins is a sick person ... More

Posted by hpmoviefan777 at 18:30, 22 February 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Essential Viewing

I love dolphins... They taste just like chicken! Seriously though, good film. ... More

Posted by spamandham at 23:39, 18 February 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Essential Viewing

Just written my first blog post about The Cove. I'd love you guys to check it out & let me know what you think. Jess ... More

Posted by DrCox at 11:24, 18 February 2010 | Report This Post

Essential Viewing

I'm a New Zealander who saw this at the Auckland Film Festival 2009 It shows the tradgedy that is happening in the Japan and the people involved and also the people in Japan saying they're against it and some fighting it (so it is very balanced and not one-sided) It shows the brave american heroes exposing the act that is still going on as you read this and the documentary is moving, graphic, thrilling, original and some laughs with some triumph at the end that had the theartre cheering. ... More

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Posted by monkeyhumour at 01:34, 19 October 2009 | Report This Post

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