Being the true story of a struggling single mother's exposé of a water poisoning case, implicating the giant utility Pacific Gas and Electric, the film has obvious antecedents in the likes of The Rainmaker and A Civil Action. As with Out of Sight and The Limey, though, the pleasure of Soderbergh's approach lies not in the familiarity of the storyline, but in his fresh, intelligent reconstruction of it. Where the film differs from, and marks a maturation on, his earlier work is in its humanist rather than formalist inclinations: while the glowing cinematography and bluesy soundtrack maintain the sheen of the previous films, the focus here is on Erin (Roberts, in her best performance to date) and her relations with her family, lover (Eckhart), colleagues and some of the plaintiffs whose cause she trumpets. It's a credible, magnificent characterisation. As the brisk, concise storytelling excises the fat, so Erin cuts through the crap. The film steers past every potential cliché, finally redeeming not only Erin but the true life genre. Perhaps not as purely enjoyable as the director's last two films, but a deeply satisfying achievement.
Cast and crew