The Cove Movie Review
Written by Heidi Palazzo
Released by (Yet) Another Distribution Company
Written and directed by Robert Enriquez
2021, 90 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Released on 26th April 2021
Garrett Barghash as Cairo
Robert Enriquez as Solomon
Phillip Cook as Sam
Mike Markoff as Luther
Dana Kippel as Olli
Zombie movies are an entirely different beast now. For my entire horror-obsessed life I could hide behind the absurdities of the screen. A real person wouldn’t hide a zombie bite. Someone couldn’t possibly be that stupid. Surely no one would add to the stress of a pandemic with their questionable behaviours. Well, 2020 showed us horror fans that maybe the land of celluloid had the right idea, and The Cove seeks to offer comfort through relatability and solidarity.
Aside from the opening scene that hints at the unfolding chaos, we the audience have no idea what happened. Instead, we see desolation as we are introduced to Cairo (Garrett Barghash), who roams only with a backpack packed full of essentials and an admittedly comfy-looking pair of pyjama pants. He soon stumbles across Olli (Dana Kippel), and the two form an alliance as they pursue the famous Cove, an island of healthy people with food, water, and peace from the grunting, stumbling infected. They are young, inexperienced, and full of hope – a contrast to the other, increasingly jaded side of society that we meet.
Solomon (Robert Enriquez), from his first shot, is clearly sick of the pandemic and people. He is (sadly) well-acquainted with pirates, led by admitted sociopath Luther (Mike Markoff, who gives a hypnotic, crazed performance that is undoubtedly one of my personal highlights), a group of men that descended into greed and violence in the wake of catastrophe. Meanwhile, the other 50% of his survival team, Sam (Phillip Cook), constantly reminds him of the daughter he needs to reconnect with.
The two sets of survivors eventually collide and not only do they have to contend with creatures of the land and sea, but pirates and their own character flaws.
This is not your standard zombie fare. For starters they’re called Wanderers, roaming the land with milky eyes and stained skin while an ocean variant, Sea Lions, devour any flesh that enters their waters. Neither land nor sea is safe, but these infected beings merely frame the character-driven drama at the heart of the film. The reason for the fallout is given a minor role and the initial days of destruction are absent. These characters are suffering and longing for utopia and that is what the movie wants us to see.
Despite the ambition, this is a movie that is clearly rough around the edges. Some of the acting falters and the ending feels somewhat rushed, which is frustrating to see – especially given the emotional journey the main characters take. Also of note are the occasionally jarring sudden cuts between scenes and moments that feel lost amidst the rest of the film, serving only as isolated plot points for characters to reflect upon later. Sadly, one of these – featuring Eric Roberts in a cameo – contains some of the best lines in the movie. His personification of corporate greed and arrogance encapsulates that which plagues modern society and deserves more time to shine.
However, much like that cameo, my complaints run short. The characters, through natural dialogue and reactions, feel like real people that stumble across a camera’s path, and their connections – especially Solomon and Sam – feel authentic. This is largely due in part to the performances of the leads, who strike an impressive balance between basic line delivery and injecting a strong sense of relatable humanity into their tone, movements and facial expressions. I cared about these people and wanted them to find some semblance of peace in an unforgiving world.
This aspect is unequivocally strengthened by the soundtrack, which was not only my favourite aspect of the film, but one of the strongest selections of music I have heard in any form of media for quite some time. It is as much as a character as the leads, with its role particularly evident in scenes where dialogue is absent, instead allowing the music to – with its interesting mix of alternating synth, piano, strings and guitar – hit the required emotional beats and carry the story along. I am not ashamed to admit my eyes welled up a few times because of how perfectly utilised the music is, and the creative ways it pairs with the cinematography to express a variety of moods.
If you are looking for a blood-spattered, action-packed tale about a zombie-infested world, this is not the movie for you. The Cove is, above all else, a character drama that presents a notion we in our current world state can appreciate all too well: the virus is not the biggest threat. Instead, it’s all about the people, their weaknesses and susceptibility to corruption.
Now, where’s a copy of that soundtrack?
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