A strong contender for this year’s Man on Wire, this nonfiction potboiler follows filmmaker Louie Psihoyos as he documents the illicit slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. “You [could] try to do the story legally,” says the exasperated Psihoyos, as he researches these killings and the lax oversight behind them. But after being stymied by government officials, attacked by fisherman and tailed by the police, the cinejournalist decides to go rogue.
With the help of Richard O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer for the TV show Flipper, Psihoyos recruits other animal-rights renegades to rig hidden cameras in a rural cove. It’s no small feat to mount a guerrilla assault on the protective powers that be, especially when the local police are watching your every move—but then very little about this situation seems simple. Psihoyos connects the dots, linking these aquatic massacres to a lucrative aquarium industry (where a live dolphin can net $150,000), ignorant Japanese consumers, an impotent global regulatory system and a rebounding whaling industry. This cove, O’Barry says, is the setting for the biggest battle in the war against such ecological crimes. Both the animal activist and the director know that if they’re ever going to slay Goliath, the fight must begin with exposing the bloody secrets of this remote inlet. That, and a rousing call to arms.—S. James Snyder