"THE PEOPLE who have run the planet to this point, and who are running the planet now, are losing control," Michael Ruppert calmly says. Ruppert is a former LAPD officer who became a full-on conspiracy theorist, complete with—natch—a paranoia-filled newsletter. Among other things, Ruppert claims to have predicted the worldwide financial catastrophe; by seeking out hidden meanings and veiled clues, he's convinced he knows what the future holds. Thanks to peak oil, his prediction is less than optimistic: "We're looking at major bankruptcy, starvation, dislocation," he insists. "All these things are already on the way."
Ruppert's warnings would be easier to dismiss if they didn't feel so grounded. Sure, he says we'll all be living like Mad Max in a few years, but his predictions stem from solid observations, albeit taken to their logical extremes. Sometimes Ruppert seems flat-out delusional—like, dude ranting at the bus stop delusional—but often, he doesn't. He comes across as tough, likeable, earnest, and utterly convinced of his rightness. "Have I ever been called a conspiracy theorist? Of course I've been called a conspiracy theorist!" Ruppert says. "But I don't deal in conspiracy theory... I deal in conspiracy fact."
Directed by Chris Smith (American Movie), Collapse focuses intently on Ruppert: It's a talking head documentary in which Ruppert's the only talking head. As he monologues about a future in which the world's population will plummet and the survivors will face a "new human paradigm," Ruppert dots the wasteland with just enough no-shit statements to give his arguments an unexpected weight. ("Local food production is perhaps the most fundamental key to human survival in the collapse of industrialized civilization." Or: "You will fail as a rugged individual; you will survive as a member of a tribe or a family.") In letting Ruppert speak—and in making no judgments—Smith's film serves as a soapbox for Ruppert, sure. But more importantly, it's a fascinating, melancholy portrait of a man who might be batshit insane. Or he might be totally right. Or maybe he's a bit of both.