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Dark Waters

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Photo: Mary Cybulski/Focus Features

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Given the talent involved, this drama about a quiet but deadly environmental disaster should have been more gripping.

Hours after watching the legal thriller Dark Waters, you will struggle to remember its title. You’ll grasp in vain for a single killer line – just one explosive zinger from Mark Ruffalo as real-life crusading attorney Rob Bilott, formerly an advocate for the polluting chemical giant DuPont but eventually its prosecutor. It won’t come; it wasn’t there to begin with. Worst of all, your mind will reel: who directed Dark Waters, marshalling the script’s dingy fluorescent-lit office showdowns and clichéd marital spats into a semi-passable entertainment? Was it Erin Brockovich’s Steven Soderbergh on an off day? Can it really have been Todd Haynes, the radical indie subverter behind Velvet Goldmine, Far from Heaven and Carol?

That last revelation hurts the most, not on any auteurist grounds (radical indie subverters are allowed to go Hollywood once in a while), but because Dark Waters seems like a dumber, more literalised version of a concept Haynes already explored brilliantly, in 1995’s Safe: am I being poisoned? Ruffalo, going for a bland shade of thick-jowled consternation that eventually simmers into mild aggrievement (where’s the guy from Spotlight?), learns about cows getting tumours and kids’ teeth turning black. His back-burnered wife, Sarah (Anne Hathaway, wasted), was once a lawyer herself – is she going to go supernova in some kind of Douglas Sirkian meltdown? Nope. (Come on, Todd Haynes, this is your big moment.) Of course we all hate insidious environmental destruction; it’s valuable to have movies about that. This one works fine enough. But let the other, less-talented filmmakers make them.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

Joshua Rothkopf
Written by
Joshua Rothkopf

Release Details

  • Release date:Friday 24 January 2020

Cast and crew

  • Director:Todd Haynes
  • Screenwriter:Mario Correa, Matthew Michael Carnahan
  • Cast:
    • Mark Ruffalo
    • Anne Hathaway
    • Bill Camp
    • Tim Robbins
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