Dark Waters (2019)
Directed by Todd Haynes
Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Bill Camp and Mare Winningham
Having not seen any of Todd Haynes’ previous films, I had the rare pleasure of being unfamiliar with a director’s work upon sitting down in the theater for 2019 drama Dark Waters. This was refreshing and also a bit frustrating. I was forced to sit and let the story unfold without any of the preconceived tendencies I would have had with a director who’s work I was familiar with.
Mark Ruffalo subtly plays Robert Bilott, an out-of-place corporate lawyer in the world of high-powered corporate lawyers. At heart, he is what he fears others think he is: an out-of-his-element country bumpkin. This set up has us rooting for Ruffalo’s character while the entire world seems to conspire against him as he tries to right a wrong: the poisoning of an entire town, and possibly the world.
The cast does a good job of diverting the focus to Ruffalo’s character while remaining skillful in their supporting roles. The only one that steps over the line is Anne Hathaway, who plays the lead character’s wife Sarah Bilot. Possibly bored with being relegated to support, Hathaway’s hams up her performance a bit too much. While the rest of the film’s actors seem to understand the film they are starring in, this Oscar winner does not.
Nothing about Dark Waters stands out from a cinematic perspective, but it is still compelling due to the nature of the story which, at its core, is WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE, AND IT’S DUPONT’S FAULT. I applaud a film that has an over two hour run time and almost strictly relies on the written word of the script to convey ideas. I will definitely check out the previous works of Todd Haynes, especially if they tell a compelling story like Dark Waters does.
If fellow WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE films The Insider (1999) and Erin Brockovich (2000) are both a solid A-, Dark Waters is a B.