Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins
Director: Todd Haynes
Running Time: 126 mins
Dark Waters is an American film about the true story of lawyer Rob Bilott, and his work on a groundbreaking case against chemical tycoons DuPont that uncovered a devastating scandal that came to affect people all over the world.
A hard-working, detailed and earnest legal drama, there are no qualms about Dark Waters and its passion for the truth. Mark Ruffalo impresses with a fantastic central performance, and Todd Haynes directs the film in sleek fashion, but above all, this is a no-frills legal drama, and that’s what makes it so gripping.
Much like Spotlight, which also took on a major modern-day scandal in a similar vein, Dark Waters is all about facts, truth and justice. Artistic license is of course taken here and there, but there’s no denying just how earnest this film is in its efforts to tell the truth.
What’s more is that, as well as being perfectly level-headed and truthful, Dark Waters is a film with real passion at every moment. It doesn’t let that passion undermine its main discourse, but Haynes’ direction and Ruffalo’s performance bring emotional depth and genuine passion for the subject matter to the table in striking fashion.
As a result, this is never a dry, by-the-numbers legal drama as you might fear. It’s not just a collection of facts told in succession like Truth or the first half of The Report, but rather a near-perfect blend of detailed, hard-working depth and genuine emotion – a difficult balance to come by.
The film’s eye for detail is without a doubt its strongest suit, pulling you into lawyer Rob Bilott’s unprecedented investigation and revealing shocking truths and discoveries as it goes along. Coupled with the film’s strongly professional and assured atmosphere, that makes it come across as an entirely competent and convincing legal drama, with every minute detail proving a gripping stepping stone in its story.
Yet it’s not just a legal drama for the fun of things. While it certainly makes for riveting viewing throughout, Dark Waters tells an important story that has enormous relevance for ordinary people even now.
As time unfolds and the years go by, the film begins to show that what we may think as past is far from over, and that the devastating realities uncovered in this story are still likely to be affecting each and every one of us to this day.
The film’s criticism of big business, government susceptibility to lobbying, environmental pollution and corporate corruption are all striking to say the least, but it’s the way that the movie takes the side of the ordinary person in the face of these scandals that’s strongest of all, delivering powerful drama that hits close to home throughout.
Overall, I was entirely engrossed by Dark Waters. A riveting legal drama that tells a true story with a perfect balance of level-headed detail and genuine passion, it’s in no way a dry watch, and more often than not a powerful and devastating tale of events that still affect us today.
Bolstered by a fantastic central performance and impressive directing, Dark Waters is a no-frills legal drama in the best sense, with a brilliant eye for detail and enthralling emotional depth throughout. And that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.