Activism turns existential in this tale of a showdown between eco-warriors and fishermen in the Antarctic—and the agonizing, monthlong waiting game that precedes it. As the doc sets sail alongside a young crew of fiery antiwhaling warriors, you expect a fast and furious travelogue. But after weeks of empty ocean, it’s clear that ennui is the real enemy here.
The activists—whose mission is known as the Sea Shepherd Antarctica Campaign—employ two boats in the Ross Sea to engage Japanese hunters, though it’s no small task to locate anything in this vast expanse. Things get stickier once the crew makes contact with their enemies four weeks later, and the Shepherd launches butyric acid bombs and drops propeller-destroying ropes. Then, to the dismay of leader Paul Watson, Greenpeace refuses assistance: When several men end up overboard, Watson must ask the whalers for help. Obliteration isn’t the real goal here so much as minor victories against the steepest of odds.
By the time the two ships collide and we get a glimmer of action, it’s less a climax than just another chapter in the never-ending opus. These ragtag rebels exude an infectious determination, and while director Dan Stone fails in the adrenaline department, he succeeds in bringing home a memorable portrait of resilience.