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Dark Waters (2019) Review

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Dark Waters

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Mark Ruffalo as Robert Bilott
Anne Hathaway as Sarah Bilott
Tim Robbins as Tom Terp
Bill Camp as Wilbur Tennant
Victor Garber as Phil Donnelly
Mare Winningham as Darlene Kiger
Bill Pullman as Harry Deitzler
Director: Todd Haynes

A tenacious attorney (Mark Ruffalo) uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations. While trying to expose the truth, he soon finds himself risking his future, his family and his own life.

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I remember hearing about Dark Waters a while ago, I recognised director Todd Haynes from his work on the excellent Carol, so I was keeping an eye on his next movie. Despite the involvement of the likes of Mark Ruffalo, I didn’t really think much of it based off the marketing. It didn’t look very interesting and so after a while I stopped paying attention to it. But when I got the opportunity to watch it I did, and I’m glad I saw it.

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Dark Waters definitely feels familiar to some other legal dramas/investigative movies about cover ups, it’s no doubt compared to Spotlight quite a lot. It might take some time for you to be completely on board with the movie, but once Ruffalo is locked in to the case, you’re locked in too. You’re learning a lot of information along with him, and it’s rather engaging throughout. The story being told is quite important and relevant to today, it starts in the late 90s, but you can see that it this case takes place over a number of years. Now I personally never heard anything about what happened here beforehand, so this was quite a new thing to learn for me. I won’t reveal too much, but learning the results can be infuriating and unsettling, especially knowing that all of this really happened. Now one could argue that Dark Waters is another one of those movies where it seems like it’s essentially cliff notes of something you could read yourself on a Wikipedia article, but it does enough to actually keep you engaged with the story told by the movie. Now I guess you could call Dark Waters a ‘slow burn’ movie, but I was really interested in what was going on, so that never proved to be a problem.

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Dark Waters has a great cast who perform well in their roles. Mark Ruffalo gives one of his best performances in the lead role of Robert Bilott, the lawyer who took on DuPont. At a certain point he’s locked in and obsessed with this case, and you really see the toll it takes on him and his family. Ruffalo’s performance is subdued but quite believable and effective. Anne Hathaway plays Bilott’s wife, and while it seemed like a pretty thankless role for her, she does get to shine in a couple moments. The rest of the supporting cast is good with the likes of Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham and Bill Pullman. The standout from the supporting cast however is that of Bill Camp, who plays the farmer who initially contacts Bilott about how multiple deaths in West Virginia are due to DuPont. Camp is one of those character actors who shows up in a bunch of movies in supporting roles and he’s always good in them, but he particularly gets to shine here.

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Todd Haynes directed this pretty well. At first I was a little turned off by the look of the movie, it’s very dark and grey, and not appealing, and I wasn’t really sure if that was intentional or not (especially with his previous movie being as visually stunning as Carol). After a while though I settled into it, and it looked a lot better as it went along.

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Dark Waters wasn’t exactly given the best distribution or marketing, however when you get the chance to watch it, definitely do. It’s an important story that more people should be aware of it, I didn’t know about any of it before this movie. On top of that, it’s engaging, written and directed well, and has a great cast, led by an excellent Mark Ruffalo. Dark Waters is one of the most surprising movies to come out of 2019.