Funded by the Oceanic Preservation Society (and directed by one of its co-founders, Louie Psihoyos), The Cove boasts a rather upfront propagandist agenda – stopping the slaughter of dolphins, for food, in an infamous cove in Taiji, Japan. Yet as far as one-sided activist works go, Psihoyos’ documentary is a quite stirring call to arms against the senseless, copious murder of animals. The movement against dolphin captivity is spearheaded by Richard O’Barry, whose quest to save aquatic mammals is driven by guilt over having helped create a global maritime park industry through his tenure as head trainer on Flipper. The Cove is a four-headed beast, functioning as a portrait of O’Barry, a critique of Japanese dolphin policy, a look into dolphins’ self-conscious intelligence, and an espionage thriller replete with night-vision cinematography, hidden cameras, and lurking villains that plays like a cross between Ocean’s Eleven and last year’s Man on Wire. Psihoyos’ talking-head commentary pushes the proceedings towards infomercial territory, and his discussion about Japan’s cultural impetus for continuing to engage in internationally frowned-upon activities – their clinging to “tradition” posited as a rebellion against Western hegemony – is given too short shrift. Yet even if it amounts to merely the slaughterhouse imagery one expected, the payoff footage of what really goes on in the mysterious cove delivers a requisite sting. At times graceless, The Cove nonetheless forcefully expresses, and correlates, O’Barry’s righteous fury, the International Whaling Commission’s ineffectiveness, and Japan’s inhumane practices, which are damningly depicted as merely one component of an international corporate system driven by ruthless self-interest.