Americans generally like to hear good news. They like to believe that a new president will right old wrongs, that clean energy will replace dirty oil and that fresh thinking will set the economy straight. American pundits tend to restrain their pessimism and hope for the best. But is anyone prepared for the worst?
Meet Michael Ruppert, a different kind of American. A former Los Angeles police officer turned independent reporter, he predicted the current financial crisis in his self-published newsletter, From the Wilderness, at a time when most Wall Street and Washington analysts were still in denial. Director Chris Smith has shown an affinity for outsiders in films like American Movie and The Yes Men. In Collapse, he departs stylistically from his past documentaries by interviewing Ruppert in a format that recalls the work of Errol Morris and Spalding Gray.
Sitting in a room that looks like a bunker, Ruppert recounts his career as a radical thinker and spells out the crises he sees ahead. He draws upon the same news reports and data available to any Internet user, but he applies a unique interpretation. He is especially passionate about the issue of peak oil, the concern raised by scientists since the seventies that the world will eventually run out of fossil fuel. While other experts debate this issue in measured tones, Ruppert doesn't hold back at sounding an alarm, portraying an apocalyptic future. Listening to his rapid flow of opinions, the viewer is likely to question some of the rhetoric as paranoid or deluded, and to sway back and forth on what to make of the extremism. Smith lets viewers form their own judgments.
Collapse also serves as a portrait of a loner. Over the years, Ruppert has stood up for what he believes in despite fierce opposition. He candidly describes the sacrifices and motivators in his life. While other observers analyze details of the economic crisis, Ruppert views it as symptomatic of nothing less than the collapse of industrial civilization itself.
Toronto International Film Festival
"Superb! You'd be hard-pressed to find a movie that channels the anxieties of our time with the power and terror of the documentary Collapse. You may want to dispute Ruppert, but more than that you'll want to hear him, because what he says - right or wrong, prophecy or paranoia - takes up residence in your mind."
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"CRITIC'S PICK! Shockingly persuasive... unexpectedly moving. A chilling monologue of imminent catastrophe. Collapse is not just sobering; it’s a full-on assault."
Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times
"GRADE A! Mesmerizing. There are many layers to the man and the movie, and it’s hard not to leave the theater shaken."
Scott Tobias, AV Club / The Onion
"Unnervingly persuasive much of the time, and merely riveting when it's not. An intellectual horror film ranks as another essential work."
Rob Nelson, Variety
"Compelling and disturbing."
Michelle Archer, USA Today
"Every time I'd start to think Ruppert was a deluded crackpot, he'd reel me back in, grabbing me by the throat with a burst of seemingly persuasive analysis."
Patrick Goldstein, The Los Angeles Times
"Gripping and unsettling... If you're anywhere near where it's playing, see it!"
James Rochhi, MSN.com
"A pulverizing film. Jolted and melted me down like no other documentary has in a long, long while."
Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
"None of the we're-totally-screwed documentaries we've seen over the past few years could've prepared us for the terrors unleashed on our minds in Chris Smith's riveting new documentary Collapse."
Bilge Ebiri, NYMAG.com
"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."
Kimber Myers, AllMovie.com
"Riveting! You can't take your eyes off him."
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out NY