The newest film by Todd Haynes is a classic court case drama with a fine cast of established actors. Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Anne Hathaway deliver sophisticated performances in a critical story of the everyday man versus the big bad world of business. Based on true events, lawyer Rob Bilott is our humble and driven protagonist that attempts to bring down a large chemical company (DuPont), responsible for poisoning mass amounts of drinking water in West Virginia.
From the people that brought you Spotlight (2016) comes a similarly relentless legal thriller, perhaps packing a little less emotional punch. Nonetheless Dark Waters is a refined film that achieves its goal of spreading awareness for such timely and critical issues – ones that threaten peoples lives and the planet. Mark Ruffalo plays the perfect everyday hero; flawed, relatable but determined to do good. Dark Waters succeeds in angering its audience against poisonous corporate giants, though it may not be a film that sticks in your mind forever.
The slow-burner style of Dark Waters is suited to its tenacious characters and storyline. The somewhat plodding pace serves well to emphasize the struggle Bilott really faced, with the real case lasting almost twenty years. That said, a tougher sense of urgency or passion would have benefited the biopic’s ability to entertain, as the final stages of it began to drag.
The occasional use of graphic images and not-so-happy (but hopeful) ending is a refreshing subversion of mainstream Hollywood sentimentality. It may not be the most unique or ground-breaking piece of cinema, but Dark Waters definitely lives up to the Participant’s code of ‘Sparking Social Change Through Film’. If you enjoyed the likes of Spotlight, The Report (2015) or any other whistle-blower movies, be sure to check out Dark Waters – available on Amazon or in cinema’s from February 2020.