The End of the Line

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jun. 30, 2009

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As though you needed another doomsday scenario to haunt your everyday, the documentary The End of the Line offers this thrilling factoid: At the current rate of production there will be no edible fish by 2048.

Despite the occasional gory fish-gutting image, the film’s beef isn’t ethical or PETAesuqe but practical. Humankind, as requisite celebrity narrator Ted Danson tells us, is “the most ferocious predator the sea has ever known,” and technology has advanced far enough that every fish you put in your mouth has severely declined in population in the last 50 years.

Cue cataclysms: Senegal and much of Western Africa, once swimmng in fish, are all but depleted while Newfoundland famously saw its massive and self-sustaining codfish industry wiped out in 1992 after it was fished out of existence.

But is this a worldwide harbinger of the apocalypse or selective and isolated? Will humans move onto something else or even find a way to circumvent the crisis? The End of the Line—inspired in large part by the book of the same name by Charles Clover, who appears as a talking head—never gets to that, as it’s too involved in stirring up an end-of-times lather. Though its facts, graphs and testimonials sufficiently convince that major regulations need to be put in place, the filmmaking borders on the hysterical, and often crosses the line.

Director Rupert Murray (Unknown White Male) also did the lensing duties, and his film is a good deal more handsome and visually striking than your average doc. But that’s not always for the better. His camera wobbles hectically; one interview is performed, shakily, in a moving car. All the while the bombastic score insists that, holy shit, we’re all going to die.

At times The End of the Line feels less like a documentary than a conspiracy thriller, which in a way it is. Though the film smartly diagnoses the chief problems as overfishing and cheerful law-breaking, it eventually identifies its chief boogeyman as Nobu, a restaurant that still serves the very endangered bluefish tuna and amusingly rationalizes this decision by putting an asterisk next to it on the menu, denoting its scarcity. Let the eater decide!

Line’s claims are convincing, but it acts like a nervous overachiever, shaking you by the collar when it could just as easily, and for the better, sit you down and soberly inform. B-

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