The Cove

Do you ever find yourself with a backlog of worthy, critically lauded films you’re almost certain you’d like but almost certain not to watch? Yes, I do, and I even worm my way out of the guilt for neglecting them. Because in my mental filing cabinet, they’re all under “Will watch”. It’s just that the films I’m actually going to watch aren’t in that file, they’re in the “Ooh, lasers!” one.

Even before it won the best documentary Oscar, this apparently brilliant film about the slaughter of dolphins was in the “Will watch” file. But actually, it should have been in the “Ooh, lasers!” file. Or at least the “Ooh, midnight stealth missions with an international team of specialists using thermal optics to dodge guard patrols and infiltrate an enemy compound with geographical fortification to plant hydrophones and cameras disguised as rocks” file. Because there’s honestly not much in that one yet.


You’ve probably already heard that it’s brilliant, and it is, but don’t assume as I did that means ‘brilliantly important’ or ‘brilliantly depressing’. It’s actually a hugely exciting piece of film from the opening credits to the end, revolving around the bizarre story of the man who captured and trained Flipper. That show sparked a global fascination with Bottlenose dolphins that led to the macabre events in a well-hidden cove in Japan, and the climax of the film is his own mission to infiltrate that cove and record what happens there.


It’s simultaneously an amazing biopic, a tense espionage thriller and a fascinating expose of the Japanese government’s cover-up. And giving a shit about dolphins is optional – the story’s compelling enough without empathy to drive it.

19 Replies to “The Cove”

  1. Good to see it’s not just me getting behind this film. My Friends have unfairly dismissed it as a Michael Moore film without the comedy, and it’s nothing of the sort. I got a tear at the ideas expressed in this film and thought the invading of the cove was more tense than any of the thrillers in the multiplexes today. It was my favorite documentary of last year.

  2. Japan also hunts whales, you gonna bitch at them for that? I won’t doubt it’s intrigue, I doubt it sense of “OMG THIS IS EVUL!” bit. It isn’t, it’s a cultural thing in that city in Japan. How would you feel if someone from India made a film that basically states, “Western Nations are evil and wrong to be eating cows.” It may seem awful to us, but to the Japanese it’s a way of life.

  3. If someone makes a compelling enough documentary about it, yup!

    Dolphins are unusual in that a) they’re frighteningly intelligent, and b) very few people knowingly eat dolphin meat. It’s not desired for its taste, and it has dangerously high levels of mercury. It’s sold as other types of fish, precisely because eating dolphin meat isn’t part of their culture. I don’t know if you’ve seen the film, but it’s more about the deception than the slaughter. They ask the average guy in Japan if eating dolphin is part of their culture, and they say much what a Westerner would: what the fuck?

  4. Sounds about right.

    On the other hand, cows may not be smart, but they tend not to be serial rapists.

    Dolphins, man.

  5. Hey, it’s me again.

    Mind telling me what city this movie is set in? Is it Taiji, Japan? If it is, then it IS cultural, and it’s NOT a “kill on sight” as the movie says. It’s a “capture on sight; we’ll organise the dolphins later.” The dolphins have one of two fates: Killed for human consumption as a commercial venture (where the meat IS labled), or sold to dolphinariums to educate the public about the beauty of the dolphin. If you read my comment, I did not say “It’s a cultural thing in Japan”, but “It’s a cultural thing in that city in Japan”. That’s like saying, “Hunting is a cultural thing in the US (because wooded areas, such as the Pacific Northwest, the South and even the northern parts of the Mideast do it). Therefore, all people in the US are in support of killing off defenseless deer to feed them.” Technically, it’s viewed as a rite of passage, but saying EVERYONE does it isn’t correct.

  6. So he’s said twice now, not counting in the original post, that the fascination of the film doesn’t hinge on guilt or condemnation.


  7. It sounds like you actually know something about the subject matter, so if you ever do see the film, I’d be interested to know what you thought of its specific points. Particularly if you have any first or second-hand knowledge of the issues. Until you do, though, there’s no point in me trying to recite every detail of it for you to refute. It is Taiji, but the whole film, including its title, is about the fact that the dolphins aren’t killed on sight.

  8. O’Barry is just another racist bugger.

    He, and all the other “OMG! The poor dolphines!” screamers, are all awfully silent when it comes to the bullfights in Spain, or the way Italians hunt songbirds, or the simple fact that the EU is financing so called “animal factories” (where pigs and cows spend entire lives without ever seeing the sun or feeling grass under their feet.)

    So, as long as the Western countries aren’t perfect in animal protection… how’s about shutting the fuck up and stop pointing fingers at the “yellow peril”?

  9. It’s true; we hippies universally adore bullfights and factory meat, and until you’re perfect in every way you’re not allowed to talk about work on which you personally spend your limited time and resources. I note at this point that you have a verb mismatch and therefore are disqualified by your own criteria from ever criticising anyone else’s communication. Thanks for playing.

    I like you because I prefer homophobes to racists!

  10. I know I love bacon. So. Much. Anything that produces bacon is therefore justified.

    But dolphins taste kinda crappy. So I’m opposed to the killing of dolphins.


  11. I feel it’s worth mentioning that the cove is on TV on Tuesday (20th July) on More4 (on FreeView). I’ll be watching, that’s for sure.

  12. Good film.

    I could do without the arbitrary stock footage of dolphins which seemed to just want to show off how beautiful the creatures are, but in general it was very, very good.

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