Captain Paul Watson has traversed the seas in his trusty Sea Shepherd, dedicated his life to keeping poachers and whalers at bay, and put his own body between animals and harpoons. And as depicted in the excellent and urgent documentary “Watson,” directed by Lesley Chilcott, the fierce eco-warrior and founding member of Greenpeace remains one of the most vital voices in the conservation movement. Though he has been condemned, arrested and placed on Interpol watch lists for his interventionist style, in the current climate crisis, his approach feels appropriate to the level of emergency.
Chilcott’s biographical film blends breathtakingly beautiful underwater photography with Watson’s recollections about his own life and personal mission to protect the seas. Known for the Animal Planet TV series “Whale Wars,” Watson started as a young child in a Canadian fishing village, freeing beavers from traps, and he’s never stopped, cuffing himself to sealing vessels, placing himself in harm’s way to stop whalers and ramming vessels poaching sharks. As beautiful as the undersea photography is, it’s matched with equal intensity by harrowing footage of Watson’s missions, and the unbearably cruel hunting and fishing practices perpetuated against marine animals.
Watson’s message is chilling: Humans can’t survive on Earth without the ocean, the life-support system that keeps this spaceship habitable (his monologue about the importance of phytoplankton is poetic, and dire). “Watson” blends this terrifying message with glimmers of hope and triumph, and this riveting documentary should be required viewing for all.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Playing: Starts Oct. 25, Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica