Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.

One of the most suspenseful documentaries ever made, 2009’s The Cove married ecological espionage to a frightening domino effect of imperialism, political corruption and a socio-environmental disregard.

As the movie states, the Japanese town of Taiji is a little place with a big secret: There, more than 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered annually — the rejects of an auction for trainers seeking dolphins for theme-park shows.

Dolphin meat — brimming with mercury that can cause deformities — is bait-and-switched for better-quality, safer seafood and suggested as a mandatory school meal. (Director Louie Psihoyos tackles the cow-and-chicken analogy to America with a convincing comparison that concerns compassion, intelligence and cultural tradition. The result: They hardly seem the same.)

Auctions are conducted in full view, slaughters in a secluded cove are not. Led by Ric O’Barry (a former dolphin trainer for Flipper), a team of daredevils, freedivers and activists conspires to plant cameras in the cove.

The Hannibal to this A-Team, O’Barry offers a fascinating culpability perspective, having ignored his dolphins’ depression for years while reaping benefits. Although it’s a caper documentary akin to Man on Wire, 2009’s Best Documentary Oscar winner is more about activism than artistic expression (although there is a finesse to the decoys and distractions).

Damning, chilling evidence that’s gathered unfolds in a conclusion as unsettling as any nerve-grinding fiction. If they can generate a ripple effect, they’ve succeeded. That there’s even a movie is a testament to human empathy, heroism and the unfortunate circumstance that padded wallets cause blind eyes to the evil that men do.