(2009)4Kimber MyersUntil the release of Collapse, Roland Emmerich has reigned as the king of the contemporary end-of-the-world film with offerings such as 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and Independence Day. But with this nonfiction film, director Chris Smith of American Movie fame has created an apocalyptic movie that is far more realistic in its predictions than any Hollywood production in memory. Collapse is the type of doom-and-gloom documentary that should have audiences running, but it's so masterfully made and riveting that it's impossible to look away.
Channeling Errol Morris' interview-centric style of filmmaking, Smith focuses his efforts -- and his camera -- on Michael Ruppert. At first glance, Ruppert might appear to be a crackpot or conspiracy theorist who would feel at home with basement-bound loners. He publishes his own newsletter full of theories, veers wildly from posed questions, and offers survival tips in the event of civilization's destruction. As a UCLA grad-turned-L.A. cop-turned-investigative journalist, Ruppert has spent decades uncovering corruption and conspiracy. Collapse documents the man's largely correct predictions in 2005 and 2006 of the now-established financial crisis of the new millennium. Ruppert's ideas revolve around peak oil, the concept that the world has already passed its top oil production numbers and the number of barrels in the future will continue to decrease. He explains that a lack of oil goes beyond just powering our cars -- the resource is used in the production of everything from tires to all plastics, and it is even a major part of pesticides sprayed on crops. Once we run out, society as we know it will end, and the result will be the type of bare-bones existence depicted and dreaded in post-apocalyptic cinema. As depressing as the prognosis sounds, Ruppert also gives practical advice on how to thrive in a changed world.
Collapse combines archival footage of its subject with contemporary interviews as he chain smokes his way through some grim talk. The film would be funny if it didn't seem so real, and its theatrical release during the landmark economic crisis only heightens the drama. Collapse is sure to divide audiences with its terrifying talk of the end of the world, but it's tough to debate the merits of Smith and his crew's filmmaking. From its tense score from Didier Leplae and Joe Wong to the tight editing from frequent Smith collaborator Barry Poltermann, this documentary is a lesson in creating tension. Horror film directors should take notes.