Dark Waters is a film that kept me laser focused until the very end. There wasn’t any room at all for wondering how much longer it had to go because every single minute is engaging. When you have subject matter like this, you must tell the story accurately and with great care. It’s so crucial that the audience feels affected and moved by what’s happening and in order to do that you have do a good job at showing the evils for what they really are. This story is a scathing indictment of corporate corruption and I think it’s one of the most important films I’ve ever seen.
We all know that Mark Ruffalo is a very gifted actor who has tackled just about every genre, so it’s no shock that he’s great here. What I love about Ruffalo’s lead performance is that I can feel that what he’s doing is genuine; that emotion and passion is evident. Anne Hathaway is more involved in this film than I expected. I was really hoping she’d have a good bit to do here but wasn’t sure she would due to her character being supportive. I’m so pleased she was given a lot of good scenes that have hefty dialogue and raw emotion. Hathaway has two scenes in particular where her performance really struck me. These two scenes contain emotional monologues and she does an exceptional job at conveying her stress but also her deep concern for her husband’s well-being. The two of them have believable chemistry as a married couple too, very convincing.
I also want to acknowledge Tim Robbins’s work as Ruffalo’s boss. I haven’t seen Robbins in a while but I’ve always loved his work, I mean come on, Bull Durham for god’s sake! Robbins fits his role very naturally and has one scene in particular where he really gets to flex that acting muscle and get tough, which I loved seeing.
I absolutely love the way in which this plot is laid out because it encapsulates everything that needs to be told and doesn’t seem overstuffed. Sometimes, when a movie tries to tell a rather long and involved story it ends up being boring or it’s clear they just tried to fit in too much. Thankfully, that is not the case at all with Dark Waters. Every scene is there for a specific reason and there isn’t any pointless filler content. The transitions from one scene to the next feel seamless and the writers were smart to put specific emphasis on the victims and their stories.
The West Virginians in this film are depicted with justice. We spend time getting to know some of them and seeing the awful ways their livelihoods have been and continue to be attacked and all because of corporate greed. We also get to see Dupont’s actions and the reasoning behind why they did this. When addressing these types of issues in films, it’s important to show exactly why these people are evil. You must show the consequences of their actions and how it’s ultimately killing hard working innocent people. If you come at this with a straw man approach, the film and story will fall flat with people because you aren’t responsibly explaining why this is bad and why these people are sleazy and guilty.
I’m so impressed with how much this film was able to cover and with the different segments of the story they were able to devote time to. For example, amongst this ever escalating legal plot involving environmental violations that cost human life, the script is still able to focus on Ruffalo’s personal life with Hathaway and his kids. Sometimes when you have a very heavy plot summary it can be easy to sweep something like family life under the rug but these writers were smart enough to humanize this man and his wife and actually give them some depth. It’s especially important to have character depth with a film that’s based on a true story because there are real people who lived through this. I’m glad these people were portrayed with justice in this film. I think it’s extra important to treat a true story with care.
Dark Waters is a brilliant film because of the masterful script that tells this important story in an engaging way. The performances are absolutely incredible too. I hope both Ruffalo and Hathaway get awards attention, especially Hathaway. Please go take everyone you know to see this because not only is it just a damn good film but it’s also such an important story about the human cost of corporate greed.