DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Collapse
Collapse
Other // Unrated // November 6, 2009
Review by Jason Bailey | posted November 5, 2009 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly

There are moments, many of them, in Chris Smith's new documentary Collapse when Michael Ruppert says something that causes an immediate, reflexive reaction in my head: That guy's crazy. I had that response more than once during the film, particularly in the section when he gives his tips for surviving our societal collapse (don't hoard food--hoard seeds). But there are also moments, as when he explains our current economy in plain English and summarizes it as "the whole economy is a pyramid scheme," when I found myself nodding my head and thinking, That guy makes a lot of sense. It's that kind of movie.

Smith could scarcely have selected a more intriguing subject for his film. Ruppert was a shining star on the LAPD, but his claims in the late 1970s that he was recruited by the CIA to run drugs brought that career to an end (he says that his fiancé disappeared and "people started shooting at me"). In the subsequent years, he became a fierce crusader and investigative journalist (he did vital early reporting on the Pat Tillman story), as well as an author and lecturer; most relevant to this film, he predicted our current economic crisis clear back in 2005 (and there's videotape to prove it).

The film is something of a hybrid of biography, film essay, and free-floating discourse. The structure is a touch convoluted in the opening scenes--Smith organizes Ruppert's topics with bold chapter headlines ("OIL" "FOOD" "TRANSPORTATION" "ELECTRICITY"), but we're not sure what it's all adding up to. Are we getting a point by point list of everything that's failing?

Some of Ruppert's claims reek of outright paranoia (he says the FBI was attempting to sabotage him by burglarizing and vandalizing the offices of his investigative newsletter), but he is riveting to listen to--smart, theatrical (one wonders if he smokes simply for dramatic effect), and frequently quotable. Time after time, he'll make some salient points, and then he'll bust out something else that's just batshit crazy. He may be frustrating, but he sure as hell isn't boring.

Director Smith, whose previous films include American Movie and Home Movie, hasn't ever been much of a stylist, an issue he attempts to rectify here. The trouble is, it's not his own technique; not to put too fine a point on it, but Collapse is the best Errol Morris movie that Morris never made. From top to bottom (the straight-on interview with an unknown but fascinating subject, the use of educational and archival footage as illustrative B-roll, the Philip Glass-style music, the editing strategy of using sound bites cutting in and out of a black screen), it feels like a lost episode of Morris' First Person. It's a good, workable style, and Smith seems to revel in it (he enjoys the pleasure of a skillfully placed cut, a delicious piece of found footage, an interruption of the interview when Ruppert has "a wave of emotion" that he describes as "some serious fucking shit"). But it does feel like he's using someone else's distinctive playbook.

There are moments where we have to wonder how seriously Smith is taking this guy. Though he flashes on some criticisms, and occasionally asks a tough question, for the most part, he's content to let Ruppert speak for himself--although he shies away from the most controversial element of Ruppert's public persona, which is that he is a 9/11 "truther." Smith dances us right up to that cliff (in Ruppert's early discussions of "peak oil," which ties in to his theory of why Cheney and a shadow government had foreknowledge and complicity in the attacks), but significantly, he won't jump over. (I'm not making a judgment, one way or the other, about Ruppert's views regarding 9/11, so calm down. I just find it very telling that Smith basically acts as though this portion of Ruppert's personality doesn't exist.) The film also doesn't mention his recent troubles with a sexual harassment complaint from a former employee, which have presumably contributed to the financial difficulties mentioned in the final crawl.

But as it stands, Collapse is fascinating, troubling, and memorable (if somewhat derivative). Whatever his faults, Ruppert cuts quite a figure on screen; some of what he says is just implausible, and some of it is perhaps too plausible. To discount his words wholesale would be easy. And comforting.

Jason lives with his wife Rebekah and their daughter Lucy in New York. He holds an MA in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU. He is film editor for Flavorwire and is a contributor to Salon, the Atlantic, and several other publications. His first book, Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece, was released last fall by Voyageur Press. He blogs at Fourth Row Center and is yet another critic with a Twitter feed.

Buy tickets to "Collapse" now!

Popular Reviews
1. The Maze Runner
2. The Boxtrolls (3D)
3. White Bird in a Blizzard
4. A Walk Among the Tombstones
5. A Walk Among the Tombstones
6. The Maze Runner
7. Tusk
8. The Drop
9. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Him/Her/Them)
10. A Walk Among the Tombstones


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVD Talk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use