Review by Camden Ferrell
Dark Waters is a legal drama directed by Oscar-nominee Todd Haynes (Carol). Even if it might be a bit slow to start, this movie quickly becomes an engrossing and essential story of corruption and exploitation that is still relevant today.
This movie is based on the true story of Robert Bilott, a corporate defense attorney that sues a powerful chemical company for their long history of pollution and endangerment. We watch as Bilott puts his career, health, safety, and family on the line to fight for the truth and to get justice for those who have suffered. This is a remarkable story about a strong and determined attorney that gives this film strong narrative footing.
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa, this is a rather intelligently written film. It tackles legal themes and ideas in a way that is smart yet very accessible to the public. It doesn’t indulge in too much jargon; it’s concise and very efficient with what it has to say. It features some great dialogue that allows its actors to really explore their characters and interact with their co-stars.
This film stars Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight) as Robert Bilott. Ruffalo does a fantastic job of capturing this complex role. While he is a mild-mannered attorney, Ruffalo does a great job of subtly showing the turmoil and conflict within his character. Even though most of his performance is subdued, he has some great moments full of emotional bursts and frustration. Both Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins support Ruffalo as lead, and they both deliver great performances. Hathaway plays Bilott’s wife with tangible passion and concern, and Robbins has some great moments as chairman of the firm.
Haynes’s direction is very strong throughout. It’s a tight and controlled legal drama that effectively tells its story without much distraction. His attention to detail and character development help give this movie an emotional core to support its factually based narrative.
This movie is a truly eye-opening experience. It unveils the corruption and despicable negligence of DuPont in a way that is repulsive to watch. The movie intends to scare you with each and every revelation, and it succeeds on that front. It also portrays the human and emotional tolls these events take on the townspeople but especially Bilott and his family. These moments are resonant and powerful with what it says. The movie boasts a timely message that is still relevant today, and it leaves you with a sinking feeling of dread and mistrust.
Despite all that worked for this movie, it does take a while to find its stride. The first act of the film drags on a little too much. However, once Bilott descends deeper into this legal rabbit hole, the movie is smooth sailing from then on. For the most part, the film takes an emotionally bleak legal drama and makes it work in its favor.
Dark Waters is a great drama that is as gripping as it is intelligent. It’s a revelatory experience that is heightened by some great performances from Ruffalo, Hathaway, and Robbins. While it may be slow to some, this is still a fantastic and informative true story.
Dark Waters is in theaters now.