Dark Waters

Dark Waters


Just hours after watching the legal thriller Dark Waters, you will struggle to remember the movie’s title.

You’ll also grasp in vain for a single killer line, just one explosive zinger from Mark Ruffalo as the real-life crusading attorney
Rob Bilott (formerly an advocate for the polluting chemical giant DuPont but eventually its prosecutor).

Alas, 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 who offered so much simmering menace in  Spotlight?), learns about cows getting tumours and kids’ teeth turning black. His back-burnered wife, Sarah (Anne Hathaway, wasted in a supporting role), was once a lawyer herself. Is she going to go supernova in some kind of Douglas Sirkian meltdown? Nope. (Come on, Todd, this is really your big moment.).

Of course we all hate insidious environmental destruction and it’s valuable to have movies about that. This one works fine enough. But let the other less-talented filmmakers make them than Haynes, as this really feels like a waste of his talents.

It’s clear why producer and environmental activist Ruffalo would want this film to be made, and it’s a worthy choice, but ultimately it’s a forgettable film.

Todd Haynes

Dec 5

By Joshua Rothkopf | 05 Dec 2019


Dark Waters
DirectorTodd Haynes
CastingAnne Hathaway, Mark Ruffalo, William Jackson Harper