A seemingly paranoid, ex-dolphin trainer slowly drives through a foreign land while being pursued by police and other locals may appear to be the start of a riveting spy thriller and in some cases thats exactly what this film is but instead of drawing from the mind of Robert Ludlum, this situation comes from a real life deep dark cover up. Four years in the making, The Cove, surrounds the slaughter of thousands of dolphins in Taiji, Japan instantly thrusts viewers into a sort of Flipper espionage that not only rivets the audience but sends them on an emotional and educational rollercoaster.
The Cove refers to a sea inlet of the coast of Taiji where on the surface the town seems to embrace dolphins but in reality some of the local politicos as well as a handful of fisherman keep the dolphin slaughter a secret to not only most locals but the rest of Japan as well.
The Cove not only captures disturbing, bloody footage of the carnage (via various stealthily hidden high-tech cameras, lenses and sound equipment) but uses former TV show Flipper trainer Richard O'Barry as an emotional through line. Director Louie Psihoyos, co-founder of the Oceanic Preservation Society, and his crew expose the local fisherman slaughtering dolphins but they also show how the government allows mercury filled dolphin meat to be mislabeled and sold in Japanese markets, and for a time allowed local school children to eat the toxic dolphin as part of the school lunch program. The film also delves into utter bureaucracy, toothlessness and corruption of the International Whaling Commission (picture a watered down UN council meeting) to regulate or offer any solutions to the ongoing dolphin slaughter.
As the original trainer for various bottlenose dolphins who played Flipper, O'Barry blames himself for the dolphin craze (dolphin theme parks, shows) where all over the world dolphins suffer in confined conditions. Blaming himself for the dolphin demise, O'Barry risks personal well being in an effort to tear off the veil of secrecy that this one area of Japan has covered up (and continues to hide) for many years.
The Cove captures not only startling footage of the dolphins (although one of the producers admits that they could have shown more gruesome scenes) but cleverly swims through various meetings (many with hidden cameras) and old TV footage to not just entertain but to thrill and enrage anyone who watches it.