By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire August 28, 2009 at 1:51AM
The winner of cinematography awards at the Atlanta Film Festival and the Woodstock Film Festival, as well as a best doc award at Monaco, Dan Stone's "At the End of the World" follows a group of volunteers as they attempt to stop Japanese poachers from entering an Antarctic sea that has been designated as a mammal sanctuary by international agreement. Though no one nation has stepped up to halt the hunting of whales in these seas, these volunteers on their (often inadequate) boats star in a film that provides the perfect companion piece to Sundance favorite "The Cove." This weekend, the film has a small release at NYC's Cinema Village.
Elena Oumano, in The Village Voice, declares that the film should be seen, and in theaters: " this real-life drama and its vast setting demand to be experienced on the big, instead of the little screen—men go overboard, skiffs go missing, and the long arm of the law threatens in this lean, sharply directed film. From Edge's opening wide shot of the Shepherds leaping off an iceberg into encircling rings of crystalline turquoise waters, the sea's vast expanse becomes a looming character in its own right—by turns stupendously beautiful and grimly terrifying, and best appreciated in a movie theater." Jennifer Merin's review on about.com sees the film as an exciting adventure, "'At The Edge of the World' is a superb advocacy documentary and travelog that presents a compelling cause, fascinating cast of characters, eventful and dramatic story and artful cinematography. It takes you to a place you might not otherwise know and presents it in the genuine fullness of event and experience."
Time Out New York's S. James Snyder finds the film intriguing despite its lack of suspense, "Activism turns existential in this tale of a showdown between eco-warriors and fishermen in the Antarctic—and the agonizing, monthlong waiting game that precedes it. As the doc sets sail alongside a young crew of fiery antiwhaling warriors, you expect a fast and furious travelogue. But after weeks of empty ocean, it’s clear that ennui is the real enemy here." He ends by calling it a "memorable portrait of resilience." In Slant, Nick Schager can't resist a comparison to "The Cove." He says, "Incapable of matching 'The Cove''s espionage thrills or ability to engender outrage over mammal slaughter, Stone's film ultimately wends its way to an anticlimactic conclusion that, reliant on seemingly unsubstantiated statistics—how was it determined that this operation saved 500 whales?—fails to properly propagandize and, in the process, illustrates the potential pitfalls of making a documentary about an event without much of a noteworthy outcome."
John Anderson, in Variety sees the film has beautiful but flawed, "The seascape photography is magnificent, the wind-and-water-sculpted icebergs creating a kind of Monument Valley through which Watson and his posse ride down the bad guys...Regretfully, Stone fails to make the entire process as exciting as it might have been. Perhaps in an effort not to sensationalize, he dampens the seafaring-adventure aspect of the Sea Shepherd mission, and there are long sequences in which the viewer doesn’t really have a grip on where or why particular events are occurring."