What can I say, these guys sure know how to get their message out, albeit in a highly manipulative-tug-on-the-heartstrings kind of way.
There's a reason the scientific community is a bit wary of Ric O'Barry, (who jump-started this project and is one of the focus-centres of the film) he's the type of activist that might alienate more people than he actually convinces to his cause (no matter how righteous, he comes across as a bit arrogant and condescending, and I've heard him speak in person... to a group of scientists who definitely don't like being condescended to!). One of the friends I went to see this with (my way of getting the message out, ask friends if they want to go see a "documentary movie about dolphins") was a bit annoyed by the unfair treatment he felt the Japanese were receiving as a whole. But I have to point out that it's rare the documentary film that is truly impartial. And they did try to portray some of the Japanese as just ignorant (of what was going on in their country) instead of vicious dolphin-killers... Not that that's much better.
Now I'm not saying I wasn't moved by this film or that I think they were wrong. I am after all a marine biologist. And it was a deep love of dolphins (fuelled ironically from visits to dolphinaria as a child) that got me into biology in the first place, so I actually know and understand why it's important to protect marine mammals in general (both at the emotional and scientific level) and dolphins in particular (and no it's not 'cause their all cute and "friendly"). But this type of films play 100% at the emotional level. Someone who isn't swayed by their emotions won't be convinced by this film other than perhaps to say the dolphins should be killed in a more humane way. Because otherwise, like one of the fishermen in the film implies: "westerners eat cows, who are you to say we can't eat dolphins?"
And in a sense he's right, I mean, who are we to impose our views and morals on the rest of the world? Ok, there are all the health reasons they mentioned in the film -Hg poisoning- that I won't go into here, but I can attest to their severity having done my master's thesis on heavy metal contaminants in marine mammals (small delphinids in fact). So yeah, even if I wasn't emotionally attached to these animals, no way in hell would I eat one knowing what I know about the toxins accumulated in their bodies!
So to wrap it up, this is a very interesting film and attention does need to be brought to the subject (so kudos there to the film makers for having the courage to get it done, and in those conditions!), but I'm pretty sure in most of the Western world they'll just be preaching to the choir. We bought into the "save the dolphin" campaign a generation ago, and I don't know anyone who's against it. If you're worried about violence in the film, yes it is violent. But not nearly as gory as I was afraid it was going to be. It actually shows a lot less of the massacre footage than I expected. Most of the movie is background bio on Ric O'Barry (of Flipper fame) and a making-of (plays out kind of like a detective caper) for those short minutes they show of the actual massacre.
It's definitely a very powerful film, and if you are the slightest bit emotional (or more, like me), good luck keeping a dry eye!
For more info you've got Wikipedia, the movie's official website http://thecovemovie.com/, and a "take-action" site with guidlines on what you can do to help (and interesting info on heavy metal levels in the fish we eat): http://www.takepart.com/thecove/
Against all odds (and after much debate and many threats) the film was shown in the Tokyo International Film Festival this year, you can read about it here on the movie's blog (go further down int he blog to read director Psihoyos' first-hand tale of the fear and nervousness of returning to Japan for the festival knowing there were several arrest warrants out for him).
I guess the dvd will be out soon in the US, so it's probably no longer available on the big screen... but for anyone in Europe you're still in time to watch it at it's most impressive!
(photos from the movie's website press-kit)