Dark Waters Movie Review Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and a half stars)
Star Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber
Director: Todd Haynes
What’s Good: The way everything falls in its place with the help of a clean narration & a Mark Ruffalo who is angry turning into a different kind of hulk this time
What’s Bad: To shine a few characters, others are overlooked restricting the film from being an overall package
Loo Break: One before the film & one after! You might end up drinking a lot of water due to the tension in the story
Watch or Not?: It’s a slow-burner & will take some time to get the point but it’s worth the wait!
It starts with a few teenagers fooling around in a river located in West Virginia, as they’re sent away by the officials we see the guards sanitising the water with some sort of gas. That’s where your mind connects with the title thinking there’s something wrong with the water, and there is a whole lot of wrong with that water. Through the country’s most-used reference “I know your grandma” a farmer Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) contacts the hot-shot recently-appointed partner of Taft Law Firm.
Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is the lawyer with integrity still alive, and it’s the year 1998, so he decided to help Tennant taking his case against a giant chemical company DuPont. Tennant has lost his 190 cows which he believes has something to with the chemicals released by DuPont. The story proceeds with Rob getting exposed more about DuPont’s involvement in a scam which is killing many people. How will he stand a chance against such a monumental firm? That’s what the story is all about!
Dark Waters Movie Review: Script Analysis
Based on Nathaniel Rich’s 2016 NY Times’ article ‘The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare’, the story has enough scope to balance between the personal and professional life of the lawyer Robert Bilott played by Mark Ruffalo. I went in without reading a thing about the case and watching any trailer/promo of the film and things will hit different that way. What starts with a vast subject suddenly keeps narrowing to a point which eventually will involve you to the list of victims affected because of DuPont. That’s the trick writers Mario Correa, and Matthew Michael Carnahan hold to keep the screenplay tight. With the way they narrate the script, they keep reminding you of how this could happen to anyone you know.
A stupid thing to note: As Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, this film too mentions the Manhattan Project and the character who exposes it is named as Tennant (just things you should ignore, but you can’t). Veteran cinematographer Edward Lachman handles the camera in his classic trademarked style. There aren’t any fancy shots going around because the script didn’t need them. Keeping it simple, Lachman has managed to keep the things neat & clean. Though I wish Hollywood could let go of the ‘pretentiously-dark’ colour tone for movies revolving around dark topics. I mean, it was okay for a while, but now it has been the same thing, and something needs to be changed. Affonso Gonçalves keeps the editing to-the-point justifying the 120 minutes he takes to establish an in-depth analysis of a story.
The major problem with the script lies in its attempts of having a multidimensional approach towards Robert Bilott’s personal life. The script explores too many routes, but only a few of them lead you to the desired destination. If you’re telling us how Rob was in real life, explore it well, you can’t tease it and then leave it half-baked.
Dark Waters Movie Review: Star Performance
Before we jump into who has performed how, a special mention about the makeup department of this film, both Mark Ruffalo & Anne Hathaway are fantastically made-up to look like Robert Bilott & Sarah Barlage. Especially Mark, with all those extra pounds around the face, he gets full marks for the mannerisms. Mark not only gets into Rob’s skin (that sounded way better in my hand) but also adds a substantial value to that character. He turns into a smart Hulk figuring out the ways to let the world know about what’s going wrong with at inside.
Why did Anne Hathaway even agree to do this? We know how much she’s capable of acting well, but here she’s blatantly restricted to act what anyone could have done. As mentioned, she has looked very much like Sarah, and she has a crucial scene towards the end. But, you don’t cast Anne Hathaway and give her just one good scene, that’s savagery to the talent.
From the supporting cast, Tim Robbins as Tom hams at places. Bill Camp as Tennent is a natural and fits in well as the old farmer seeking justice. Victor Garber as DuPont’s main-guy Phil needed to be more coc*y. Writers just couldn’t do justice to his character.
Dark Waters Movie Review: Direction, Music
The best thing Todd Haynes brings in to the table is the humane angle to the script. This could’ve been an extremely technical film boring with the ‘chemical-talks’, but Todd takes a different route to narrate the same story differently. Telling you the story from the protagonist’s point of view, Todd makes some bold decisions of what to keep and what to get rid off. He goes wrong with a few things he keeps in the story (like Hathaway’s weak character, half-baked bond with family & more). But, he goes incredibly right with the things he knows matter (like a strong protagonist, the edge-of-the-seat drama & more).
Remember Me fame Marcelo Zarvos keeps the background score subtle. Never taking you out of the mood, it’s there without making much noise.
Dark Waters Movie Review: The Last Word
All said and done, Dark Waters explains a complicated chemical corruption scandal effortlessly. It tells you the story of what’s wrong with the society without getting much into its technicalities, hence delivering a clear message without being melodramatic about it.
Three and a half stars!
Dark Waters Trailer
Dark Waters releases on 07 December 2020.
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