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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: The Cove

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Cove”
Rated PG-13
2009

One of the most suspenseful documentaries ever made, 2009’s “The Cove” married ecological espionage to a frightening domino effect of imperialism, political corruption and a socio-environmental disregard.

As the movie states, Taiji, Japan is a little town with a big secret: There, more than 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered annually — the rejects of an auction for trainers seeking dolphins for theme-park shows.

Dolphin meat — brimming with mercury that can cause deformities — is bait-and-switched for better-quality, safer seafood and suggested as a mandatory school meal. (Director Louie Psihoyos tackles the cow-and-chicken analogy to America with a convincing comparison that concerns compassion, intelligence and cultural tradition. The result: They hardly seem the same.)

Auctions are conducted in full view, slaughters in a secluded cove are not. Led by Ric O’Barry (a former dolphin trainer for “Flipper”), a team of daredevils, freedivers and activists conspires to plant cameras in the cove.

The Hannibal to this “A Team,” O’Barry offers a fascinating culpability perspective, having ignored his dolphins’ depression for years while reaping benefits. Although it’s a caper documentary akin to “Man on Wire,” 2009’s Best Documentary Oscar winner is more about activism than artistic expression (although there is a finesse to the decoys and distractions).

Damning, chilling evidence that’s gathered unfolds in a conclusion as unsettling as any nerve-grinding fiction. If they can generate a ripple effect, they’ve succeeded. That there’s even a movie is a testament to human empathy, heroism and the unfortunate circumstance that padded wallets cause blind eyes to the evil that men do.

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