Is it the end of the world?
By Dan Kois
Friday, Dec. 11, 2009
Michael Ruppert is convinced I'll be dead really soon, and he'd like to tell you about it. At length! In Chris Smith's documentary, "Collapse," Ruppert -- a well-spoken, mustachioed ex-cop with shadowy CIA connections -- spins a plausible scenario for the end of civilization as we know it. Wearing a bland blue dress shirt and projecting an air of calm authority, Ruppert makes an unlikely doomsday prophet, which is why his predictions are so eerie. (If he were a bearded nut waving a sign on a street corner, he'd be easier to blow off.) "I don't deal in conspiracy theory," he says, answering naysayers with exasperation. "I deal in conspiracy fact."
Think of "Collapse" as the anti-"2012." Not because this dour doc is any more optimistic about the future than that recent apocalyptic spectacular but because its vision of disaster is delivered not through expensive special effects but by a talking head. Smith, the director of the dynamic documentaries "American Movie" and "The Yes Men," has clearly modeled "Collapse" after the work of Errol Morris ("The Fog of War"). Ruppert's high-energy 82-minute monologue is uninterrupted, but for archival footage.
Using the world's dwindling oil reserves, and its exploding population, as a starting point, Ruppert argues forcefully that the current economic crisis is in fact the beginning of an enormous correction that will devastate humanity. Ruppert predicts global food shortages, mass casualties and complete infrastructure collapse.
Ruppert's advice isn't too inspiring: Insulate your house and start to grow crops on your lawn. In the new world, non-genetically engineered seeds will serve as currency. I realize that, as a soft suburbanite with a hopeless brown thumb, under this nightmare scenario I'll be one of the first to go. So maybe it was denial that had me viewing Ruppert, through most of "Collapse," less as an unheralded truth-teller than as a crank with a practiced spiel. But toward the end of the movie, Ruppert unexpectedly breaks down, weeping openly for the lost future of humanity, and at that moment I was startled at how bad I felt for him -- and how nervous I was, suddenly, that this contemporary Cassandra might just be right.
Spare some seeds?
Kois is a freelance reviewer.
Unrated. At AFI Silver Theatre. Contains profanity. 82 minutes.