Dark Waters (2019)

This is a quiet and unassuming work about a real-life lawsuit against a chemical company accused of toxic poisoning, but Haynes’ unhurried filmmaking style feels like a mismatch for its content.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dir. Todd Haynes
2019 | USA | Biography/Drama/History | 126 mins | 2.39:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for thematic content, some disturbing images, and strong language

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Pullman
Plot: A corporate defense attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.
Awards: –
Source: Focus Features (SG: Shaw Organisation)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres – Shaw Lido (Preview)
Spoilers: No

I admit to a double-take when I first read that Todd Haynes was directing Dark Waters—surely not a sequel to the inferior American remake of the 2000s J-Horror classic, Dark Water

With a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins, and backed by the production company that produced Spotlight (2015) and The Post (2017), Dark Waters is perhaps scarier than the ghosts of our imagination.

It is about the long-running, real-life lawsuit against DuPont, a chemical company accused of toxic poisoning through unregulated pollution of chemicals in the environment and in household products. 

Most of you who lived through the 2000s would remember the worldwide hysteria over the use of Teflon in non-stick frying pans, which could cause cancer if exposed. 

Dark Waters spans over a decade accounting for this landmark case as a lawyer, Rob Bilott (Ruffalo in a pensive performance), seeks to take the giant corporation to task. 

Second film Mark Ruffalo has appeared in dealing with the DuPont family. The first was 2014’s “Foxcatcher”.

It is a quiet and unassuming work; in fact, the first thirty minutes or so feel so languid that you wonder how a film that is about seeking the truth might find some sense of urgency.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Haynes, who directed such sublime films as Far from Heaven (2002) and Carol (2015), is an astute filmmaker in capturing intimate human experiences.  However, his unhurried filmmaking style feels like a mismatch for its heavily-plotted content. 

The fact that Dark Waters feels longer than its two-hour runtime is indicative of its pacing, plus there is nothing specifically exciting about its generic tick-the-checkbox style approach to the genre that sees the case-cum-narrative unfold chronologically. 

But Haynes has his regular cinematographer Edward Lachman to thank for lighting the film up with beautiful, warm glows from indoor lamps that contrast with exterior landscapes of gloom, particularly that of West Virginia, where victims of DuPont had been suffering for decades. 

Grade: B-



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