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Director: Chris Smith
Cast: Michael Ruppert

(US DVD: 15 Jun 2010)

Michael Ruppert is not a happy guy. The former L.A. police officer has become an angry voice loudly declaring our society’s dire state and bleak future. Specifically, he predicted the most recent financial meltdown and claims that the trouble is just beginning. He’s written three books and publishes the blog “From the Wilderness”, which chronicles the impending disasters. The arrival of Peak Oil soon may cause a global catastrophe that could send our modern society toward extinction.


Frightening us with a nastier, more direct approach than Al Gore or Michael Moore, Ruppert makes no excuses for his bleak take on today’s world.


Collapse presents an 80-minute interview with Ruppert that dramatically conveys his harsh worldview. Director Chris Smith is well-known for depicting the likable, eccentric filmmakers of American Movie, but this is a much different type of documentary. Shot at a deserted site that resembles a military bunker, the conversation delivers an often-bleak impression on our future. I’d hesitate to call Ruppert a complete fatalist, however. He decries the flaws of our economic system, but reveals a fierce determination to spread his message.


It’s not an easy ride and it is a one-sided affair, but you can’t deny Ruppert’s passion.


A portion of the viewing audience will immediately dismiss Ruppert as a nutcase, but the reality is more complex. He interprets the evidence more pessimistically than many experts, but that doesn’t mean his conclusions are incorrect. It’s difficult to get past the middle-aged guy’s tough demeanor, which offers little room for a more positive outlook.


The economic downturn has made him even more certain that his theories are correct. If so, the scarcity of fossil fuels will soon lead to humanity’s destruction.


Ruppert’s background helps to explain the hardened outlook on society’s future. Learning about the CIA’s drug-dealing activities in the late-‘70s, he spoke out against these tactics and became a target. He has spent the past few decades publishing newsletters and speaking out against the CIA and other apparent misuses of government.


He’s an intriguing figure if you can get past the arrogant personality. Very few public figures are willing to speak so candidly about our leaders and the poor decisions contributing to the collapse.


Smith’s filmmaking takes an Errol Morris-like approach and remains focused closely on his primary subject. The best comparison is The Fog of War, which intimately depicted a lengthy interview with military leader Robert McNamara. Smith uses stock footage and other videos to enhance the distressing images described by Ruppert. The result is a bleak picture that’s difficult viewing and will stick with you for a long time.


Even if you don’t believe the future is so hopeless, the ideas about humanity’s end and our current failures are haunting. It’s a difficult ride and doesn’t reveal any solutions, which will only increase some audience members’ frustrations.


The DVD contains both deleted scenes and an epilogue that gives an update on Ruppert’s experiences and current feelings. Each segment runs for about 15-minutes and contains messages similar to the film’s statements. The deleted scenes provide small clips on a wide array of topics that didn’t fit within the prominent story.


More engaging is the update, which reveals Ruppert with a new haircut, a goatee, and a slightly warmer demeanor. He’s not convinced about economic recovery and remains focused on spreading his theories to a larger audience.


Collapse depicts a bitter, despairing look at a downward path for the United States and the world as a whole. Considered during the BP environmental disaster, the situation lends credence to the theory that we’re trapped on a runaway train. Can we turn the ship around and move towards a positive future? Ruppert doesn’t see evidence that change is happening, and it’s tough to argue with his theories.


In a poignant scene, he stops the discussion and takes a moment to grasp what he’s saying. Describing this interesting moment in the DVD epilogue, he discusses his understanding that our governments are useless. I hope this isn’t the case, but Ruppert makes compelling points that the apocalypse may be sooner than we think.

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Dan Heaton has written about film and music for more than 10 years for both print and web publications, including DigitallyObsessed.com and ErasingClouds.com. You can check out his current work at his blog, Public Transportation Snob (ptsnob.com). Dan earned Bachelors degrees in English and Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1998. His writing covers a wide array of genres, with a particular interest in sci-fi movies and television. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife and toddler daughter.


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