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Dark Waters


Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Bill Camp, Bill Pullman, Mare Winningham, Richard Hagerman

Director: Todd Haynes

Producer Ruffalo casts Ruffalo the actor perfectly here as the lawyer who took on America's most powerful chemical company against all the odds. He's heroic, tenacious and kinda dull. The result is the sort of film to which critics offer muted praise, but that the public proves reluctant to see - unless of course it's Erin Brockovich.

Rob Bilott (Ruffalo) is a corporate lawyer with a beautiful wife (Hathaway, not so well cast) and two sons (another on the way) who is more accustomed to defending chemical companies that prosecuting them. But, when his grandmother brings the complaint of a farmer (Camp, very good if a little unintelligible at times) - who has been losing all his cattle - to Rob's attention, he journeys down to West Virginia to investigate.

He finds that not only the cattle, but other animals, have been infected, exhibiting 'mad cow'-like symptoms, resulting in cancer-like death. Human babies have been born deformed, and local people are taking sick.

It seems that the chemical giant Dupont has, in pursuance of its new brainchild, Teflon, been dumping toxic waste into the local landfills and streams for years and years, since the 1970s. It's now 1998, and Bilott finds himself at the beginning of a case that will take years to pursue and is still going on today, as Dupont fights every claim against it one by one.

And the entire thing would have dropped long ago, with the board of Bilott's company jittery over consequences, had he not received the unfailing backing of his boss (sturdily played by Robbins).

It'd a fascinating and gripping true-life scandal, but the sometimes plodding narrative isn't always as punchy as it should be, thanks to Haynes' too-careful direction. And the film, just like Dupont, does tend to drag its feet towards the end.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Universal (Focus). Colour (unspecified).
126 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 23 Feb 2020