Collapse on DVD

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Collapse on DVD
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Michael Ruppert was a decorated police officer for the LAPD and had 30 years under his belt as an investigative journalist. For years he has predicted such economic disasters as the 2008 market crash and the ongoing oil crisis. Filmmaker Chris Smith brings Ruppert’s story to the screen as the man ticks off just how the world has brought itself to the brink of “Collapse.”

Director Smith collects copious talking head interviews with Ruppert, tells of his past dire predictions that came to pass and chronicles his predictions of a global meltdown over the greatest commodity of all – oil. He lays out the history of fossil fuel and its rise to world prominence just two centuries ago with the industrial revolution. In this brief period in our long history, Ruppert claims that corporate greed has hidden the crisis we now face with the fast dwindling supply of the black gold.

Ruppert talks about the world’s ever-growing dependence on oil for virtually all of our energy needs and the naïve attempts to reduce that dependence. Ethanol, the corn-based fuel that the George W. Bush administration ordered into production, was thought to be a great alternative to oil but, according to Ruppert, it is a dead end. Electricity is also discussed and is declared by the whistleblower not an energy source – energy, whether fossil fuels or hydraulic power, is needed to produce electricity. Solar and wind power, too, would only create a tiny portion of our enormous energy needs.

Food production, according to Michael Ruppert, is one of our great users of oil. It takes 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce a single calorie of food. The corporate stranglehold on food production is responsible for the overuse of soil – sucking all the nutrients from it requiring chemical fertilizers to replace those nutrients. Then, there all the other oil-related costs in processing, packaging and delivering foodstuffs to the hungry public, making the current economic path increasingly untenable.

Chris Smith and his documentary team smartly focus their attention on the world fuel crisis, leaving many other issues discussed by Ruppert to the deleted scenes portion of the DVD. And, there are a lot of deleted scenes – Fate, Detective, Lies, Empires, It’s a Movie, Balance, The Scorpion and the Turtle, Thomas Jefferson, Feed In Tariffs, Hemp, Direct Connection and Victory Garden – that would have cluttered the finished film. These subjects, though, are fascinating and deserve the attention given on the DVD. Also included are a “Collapse” update, with Michael Ruppert’s current world views, and the theatrical trailer is also thrown in for good measure.

I give “Collapse,” the movie, a B+ and the same goes for the informative DVD release.

When director Chris Smith ("American Movie," "The Pool") contacted former LAPD narcotics officer Michael Ruppert about information on drug smuggling and the C.I.A., charges Ruppert had made against the agency back in the late 70's which eventually led to his leaving the force, Ruppert told Smith he had a far more important story to tell.  In the intervening years, Ruppert had become an investigative reporter who broke many stories, including the Pat Tillman coverup.  With the knowledge he has gathered about the way things work, Ruppert states that because we have achieved 'peak oil,' that is used more oil than there is left to produce, the unlimited growth model which the global economy is built upon is now doomed to "Collapse."

Chris Smith's had an interesting career, beginning with his document of the making of a low budget American Heartland horror movie through following the Yes Men to making the acclaimed indie feature "The Pool."  One can see his maturation as a documentary filmmaker with "Collapse," as Smith keeps his film, which is little more than one talking head, one vintage animation, old newsreel footage and occasionally his own disembodied voice, riveting throughout.  He accomplishes this with a set which gives the foreboding feel of an underground bunker, interesting camera angles and moves (by the esteemed Ed Lachman, Max Malkin and Smith himself) to capture his chain-smoking subject and an ability to strip down his material to a clean through line (as evidenced by the interesting yet extraneous copious deleted material on the DVD).  The only problem with "Collapse" is Smith's failure to prod Ruppert a little harder, especially on the subject of his 9/11 Truther status.

Although adapted from Ruppert's book 'Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World,' Smith wisely begins with the events which made Ruppert notorious - his allegations that the C.I.A. has been drug trafficking for decades (Smith shows us video from a 1996 town hall meeting where Ruppert finally confronts a C.I.A. director).  Ruppert also goes through his credentials, beginning with his parents' involvement in Top Secret Government business.  When interviewing with the LAPD at nineteen, he even discovered he had a clearance high than Top Secret which his father had obtained for him in the event he may have left his briefcase open at home.

But the meat of "Collapse" is Ruppert's dissertation on oil and why it is irreplaceable and just what its depletion means.  Ruppert expands upon its use as transportation fuel, then discusses why alternative forms of fuel are not enough (um, their delivery depends on oil).  He points out how dependent industries from hospitals to agriculture are upon it, indeed our very infrastructure.  He connects oil and the price of oil to the global economy and discusses why current paradigms need to be shifted radically.  He repeats many points made in such recent docs as "Food, Inc." and "Flow" and ties them all together. It's all very sobering stuff.

But Ruppert and Smith do leave us with questions.  Ruppert pulls out a twenty dollar bill and asks if he can put it in his tank or eat it, but when he advances stockpiling gold, he does not ask these same questions.  Ruppert claims to have predicted the current economic collapse far in advance of it yet Smith leaves us with the information that Ruppert is currently behind on his rent and is facing eviction. Surely the man who knows so much about the inner workings of the economy and its trending could have used this information to protect himself financially.  Finally, when Smith asks about his views on 9/11, which, frankly, the filmmaker glides over so quickly one could blink and miss it, Ruppert evades the question and professes a desire to 'move on' - this from a man who has been charging the C.I.A. with the same crime for decades.  (See "Crossing the Rubicon" for Ruppert's claims of Vice President Dick Cheney's collusion with the 9/11 perpetrators among others.)

Still, Ruppert is such an eloquent speaker and makes so many good points on the central subject here he cannot be dismissed.

The DVD includes the film's trailer and a wealth of deleted material with Ruppert ranging on subjects from composting toilets to hemp farming to the build out of Las Vegas to his own escape from a pronouncement of death at birth.  He even tells a couple of fables and while all these paths off the main trail are interesting, they illustrate just how well Smith put his eventual film together.  Finally, there is an Update segment where a much happier looking Ruppert claims to be content playing rock and roll with his band, New White Trash.  Clearly, Ruppert's also enjoyed his time in the limelight while the film played at festivals and in theaters.  Still, seeing the healthier and happier looking Ruppert now makes one wonder just what he has to smile about.

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