23,000 dolphins are caught every year in Taiji, Japan. Some are are hand-picked to be sold to live in captivity and trains for various reasons while the remainder are wrangled together in a naturally obscured cove, free from public awareness, to be slaughtered and sold for their meat.
Louise Psyihoyos' The Cove is unquestionably an important, maddening and inhumanely horrific expose on a secretive, ritualistic genocide and the political and governmental powers that let it happen.
It's partly a covert-ops operation, partly a heavy eco-friendly activist picture, and also an indictment of the Japanese culture holding on to a misplaced ideal of an historic past as a national empire. In other words, the Japense government and the IWC (International Whaling Committee) want to keep killing dolphins and whales because, a) they always have, b) it's profitable and c) because there is serious opposition against them and they wrongly look to their stubborness and desperate corruptness as a form of cultural preservation.
It's this part of The Cove, aside from the natural repugnance of brutish and venomous Japanese officials and fisherman who take part in the heinous act, that really convinces.
Perhaps the most damning of all the cases the film makes towards necessary involvement in the practice of killing dolphins is the deadly toxins consumed in the sale of dolphin meat to japanese citizens -- most of whom are unaware that their are consuming either poisonous fish or dolphin meat.
However convincing and important the film feels (and make no mistake, it is important) The Cove still doesn't stand as a wholly indelible movie. It's cut, edited, composed and factually dense, providing a strong argument that this is, in fact, a greatly critical story, but it isn't a great "film".
Some viewers and critics are highly overselling the film's appeal as a thriller. I saw something that was very well-organized, undeniably persuasive and thoroughly moving, but still a product with a strong current of activist, eco-friendly and manipulative threads running through it.
Combined with J. Ralph's overbearing musical numbers, The Cove is spliced far-too-often with slow-motion shots of dolphins splashing in the sunset and redundant tales trying to validate their existence as supremely intelligent mammals -- we get it. It's a horrifying, eye-opening story and a topic in desperate need of a remedy. I just wish the film was a "great" showcase for it, instead of a "pretty good" one.