* * * *
Todd Haynes brings his virtuosic levels of craftsmanship to a lawyer-versus-corporation true story, with magnificent results. Dark Waters, a passion project for star and producer Mark Ruffalo, has everything the genre, and indeed many a good film, demands: high stakes, honest suspense, compassion, passion, righteous anger and more than a few goosebump moments. It’s a depressing film about a very depressing sustained act of corporate malfeasance, but it’s ruthlessly compelling and compulsively watchable.
Haynes brings a gothic, almost horror-film texture to the material, aided by Bill Camp’s intense performance as Wilbur Tennant, a West Virginia farmer whose cows are dying, sometimes after losing their minds and attacking him. He storms the Ohio law offices of Rob Bilott (Ruffalo) – because he knows Bilott’s grandmother! – demanding representation. None of the lawyers in Wilbur’s own state will take him on, because DuPont, the chemical company he’s convinced is behind his cattle’s poisoning, basically owns it.
I welled up three times over the course of the film, not because my emotions were being manipulated but because they were being addressed. Haynes may infuse his film with horror, but that is because it is a horror story, as all stories of inhuman abuse by corrupt monied corporations are. Every beat of this movie is told with integrity, and your tears are deserved.