The Cove DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

If they ever gave out awards for courage like the Medal of Valor (or even a Nobel Prize...) to a film, I have to imagine The Cove would be the first film to win such awards.
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
Absolutely everything.
Absolutely nothing.
Given all the simply amazing things I had heard about this film, I find it rather sad that it took me this long to watch The Cove. But, as they say, better late than never, and, even though many have said it long before I have, The Cove might simply be one of the most important (if not THE most important) films of the 21st Century.

You've likely heard all the catchy little sayings about the film, comparing it to films like Ocean's Eleven, Bourne Identity and such and they are all quite true, as true as the utterly shocking story this film has to tell. To put it bluntly, the film is about a team of filmmakers, free divers, techies and activists who have but one mission: to put an end to the secretive dolphin slaughter that happens in a secret, incredibly well-guarded cove off the coast of Taiji Japan every year... but it goes oh so much deeper than that. The film touches on several ironies, one being that this town of Taiji is really a dolphin and whale-friendly town. They even have a museum and an annual festival devoted to the beloved creatures, and yet they are completely unaware that this slaughter takes place every single year. Another irony would be that these slaughtered dolphins are sold off for their meat, despite the incredible amounts of dangerous mercury in the meat... and the meat is sold off as different kinds of fish meat to the unsuspecting consumer. One of the biggest ironies, though, is that the man spearheading this mission, Ric O'Barry, is perhaps one of the men who started this whole process that ended in dolphins being slaughtered to begin with. See, O'Barry was one of the original dolphin trainers on the hit TV series Flipper, a show that was such a huge hit, it spawned Sea World-like dolphin parks all over the world, which lead to dolphin trainers flying out to Taiji to find the dolphins they wanted for their parks. But after the trainers have gone, the dolphins left over are slaughtered and sold off and, once O'Barry found out the truth about what happened to these dolphins, he made it his life's mission to stop this from happening. Now O'Barry is armed with director Louie Psihoyos and an incredibly diverse team of experts to expose this annual tragedy to the world, even risking their own lives to do so.

While the common townsfolk in Taiji may not have a clue what goes on in that secret cove, there are plenty others that do and will stop at seemingly nothing to keep this highly-guarded secret just that: a secret. Since Ric O'Barry has been such a staple in Taiji throughout the years, protesting this slaughter, we see that O'Barry and the team are shadowed by police everywhere they go, even to the point that they have to drive wearing disguises at times. While the film's main job is exposing this slaughter, Psihoyos also does a fantastic job of showing us certain effects of this slaughter, like the poisonous dolphin meat passed off as other fish meat and even delving into the Japanese government, showing how this whole thing is being covered up because the fishing companies are likely paying them off. Any good doc*mentary will have educational value with some sort of entertainment value (usually humor) mixed in as well, but I can't recall any doc*mentary I've ever seen like this, with an incredible amount of education but with an equal amount of real-life thrills, suspense and, ultimately, horror, as in the horrific things they expose us to. It's actually revolting to use the word "entertainment" in reference to this film, because it's not entertaining in a sense that you'll walk away from this film with a smile on your face. However, you find yourself as terrified, shocked or awed by this film than you will from anything that Hollywood can conjure up, and it's just that much more effective too because, well, it's absolutely, 100% real-life, horrific events that unfold before our very eyes - events that only few have likely EVER witnessed. The fantastically-creative, high-tech way they went about undergoing this mission, is just a wonderful cherry on top of a movie experience that you've never ever experienced anything quite like before.

The Cove may end up going down in history as one of the most important films of all time. It's a film so riveting, compelling and outright outstanding that, to be honest, it's almost sad that this is a doc*mentary, and not the creation of a Hollywood screenwriter. One can only hope that with a film so utterly powerful, with the ultra-bright light the film has shined on this world issue, that in the future, this slaughter will be history.
We don't get an overwhelming amount of features here, but they offer up a nice selection that supplements the film quite nicely. Special OPS Cameras are first and they show us how they went about making these custom spy cams for the film. There are five of them in all - Nest Cam, Thermal Cam, Rock Cam, Helicopter Cam and Blood Cam. It was really interesting that the Nest Cam could be completely controlled via remote control, where they could pan, zoom and do anything they wanted to do without the Japanese knowing. The Thermal Cam one explained how director Louie Psihoyos used the cam for scouting purposes to figure out where the guards were... and also that it was illegal for them to take this camera outside of the United States. The Rock Cams takes us to Industrial Light and Magic, and we get a little tour through the facility and then they show them the initial templates and then the final product they received. The Heli Cam talks about making this remote controlled helicopter cam and the guy who flew it and lastly we have The Blood Cam, which is responsible for possibly the most incredible shots of the entire film, and how they made it from scratch. These are all just under 9 minutes long altogether and they offer a wonderful glimpse at how these cams came together.

Freediving is next and it's an interesting little montage of freediving footage that shows them just swimming through the oceans and all of the beautiful underwater shots they can get here. It's really quite gorgeous, although I'm not sure if they shot this there in Taiji or somewhere else in Japan, but it shows the undeniable connection that humans have to dolphins in the last segment and this five-minute feature is well worth watching.

Deleted Scenes are next and this one starts out with some info about the Oceanic Preservation Society and Sufers for Cetaceans founder Dave Rastovich, who organized a "Paddle Out" at the Taiji cove in 2007, and the interview that took place after the event. They show footage of the event intercut with Rastovich's interview and we hear about what happened to the event, how the word spread about their being there (including celebs like Hayden Panetierre and Isabel Lucas). We get a great little twist too that during the interview, they learned that dolphins were being sent into the cove after the paddle out, and then they all go and paddle out to the cove and have another circle, right outside the cove with the water bright red still from the kills, and then them being harassed by Japanese people in a boat. We get some of this stuff in the movie, but this is a cooler version of it. The next one has Ric O'Barry going shopping for a wig so he can drive around incognito and the next shows some footage from the Taiji Whale Festival, which is all rather random but shows an interesting contrast in the town, with a festival that worships whales in a town that slaughters dolphins. The first one is really intriguing and takes up the most time - about seven of the nine and a half minutes - and I'd just watch that one, because the wig thing and the Whale Festival aren't terribly necessary.

Besides the Theatrical Trailer, the only other thing we get here is The Cove: Mercury Rising, which is a doc*mentary on the levels of mercury that are found in dolphin meat, which is touched on slightly in the film. We mainly hear from director Louie Psihoyos here as he talks about how they wanted to make a film about oceanic degradation that quickly turned into a film about this cove, after meeting Ric O'Barry. They also talk about the mercury research that goes on in Minamata, Japan - which was the site of a massive outbreak of mercury poisoning in the 50s - and now the researchers won't talk on camera (there is footage of them, with their faces blurred) and they told this absolutely amazing experiment about mercury levels in the fish that the scientists in Japan and also the mercury hazards that also exist in the United States. This is an incredibly interesting doc*mentary that is highly informative and is a terrific companion to the film, since it isn't addressed in the film as much.
The film is presented in the widescreen format, in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16x9 televisions.
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 format.
There's nothing incredibly flashy here, but they surely do capitalize on the widespread critical acclaim the film has received. The front cover just has a title card with a clever tagline and a majestic shot of three dolphins diving out of the water below the title card and above it, they have a selection of critic quotes that I have to say are all pretty damn accurate. The back has a few more accurate critic quotes, some notices of awards its received so far along with a nice synopsis, a brief special features listing, four small, random images from the film and the billing block and tech specs. This is quite effective with a lot of great critical praise and a great synopsis to draw in those who (sadly) might not have heard about this outstanding film.
The Cove is truly one of the most exhilarating, captivating and powerful story that shines a light on one of the world's darkest secrets. If they ever gave out awards for courage like the Medal of Valor (or even a Nobel Prize...) to a film, I have to imagine The Cove would be the first film to win such awards.

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Comments (1)

  1. Dan

    This movie made me sad.

    4 years agoby @dan1Flag