Profit of Doom
In “Collapse,” documentary filmmaker Chris Smith subjects his audience to 82 uninterrupted minutes of the dire end-of-the-world scenario foreseen by former L.A.P.D. officer and freelance journalist Michael Ruppert. The protagonist — in his sure-footed intensity, unwavering commitment to his ideas and knack for what he proclaims to be, “conspiracy fact” — seems at first glance to be one of those nutty prophets of doom one periodically encounters around major American cities and in the murky depths of the Internet. The movie sounds insufferable, but it’s not.
The brilliance of Mr. Smith’s work — which consists of an extended monologue/interrogation in which Mr. Ruppert outlines the multiple components that have collectively engineered our society’s fatal instability — lies in its willingness to look beyond the central figure’s questionable exterior. Mr. Smith doesn’t ask the audience to believe everything Mr. Ruppert has to say. But in letting him speak with only the sparest of interruptions, the filmmaker creates a poignant portrait of a man who has indisputably sacrificed all for what he perceives to be something bigger than himself.
Implicit in the sad story of his loneliness and financial instability that surfaces is the empathetic suggestion that such loners ought not be so easily dismissed, so readily sent to the margins by the rest of us. As Mr. Ruppert methodically explains the reasons our addiction to oil can’t be lessened, precisely why he’s sure our financial system has to collapse and the profound corruption rotting away at the cores of governments worldwide, points in his research that demand disagreement grow ever scarcer. He makes his case with a professor’s meticulousness and regard for factual substantiation. The industrial gloom that permeates the film’s look, with its combination of Mr. Ruppert’s on screen screed and interwoven faded stock footage, emphasizes the gravity of the issues being raised.
The quasi-biblical undercurrent brought to Mr. Ruppert’s portrait lends the film an intriguing mystical subtext. Throughout, Mr. Smith never actively dismisses the notion that this unlikely, well-spoken man could be heir to the long tradition of prophets sent to warn societies of their impending doom, before they were prepared for the message. The prospect is chilling.
Opens on Nov. 6 in New York, on Nov. 13 in Los Angeles and on Oct. 1, 2010 in Britain.
Directed by Chris Smith; based on the book “A Presidential Energy Policy” by Michael C. Ruppert; directors of photography, Max Malkin and Ed Lachman; edited by Barry Poltermann; music by Didier Leplae and Joe Wong; produced by Kate Noble; released by Vitagraph Films and FilmBuff (United States) and Dogwoof (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 22 minutes. This film is not rated.