Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp
Director: Todd Haynes
Well, it looks like Ruffalo is tired of getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor and is using Dark Waters as his springboard into to the Best Actor category. It’s not a bad move, Haynes’ movies are usually well-received and given Ruffalo’s history with the Academy Awards, there’s a very realistic chance this could work. While not as strong as a movie like Spotlight, Dark Waters is still strong enough for consideration and fits that end-year thriller about the greed of corporations. Lead by a captivating performance by Ruffalo, Dark Waters may not give Ruffalo what he was looking for, but it will certainly give audiences their money’s worth over the course of 126 minutes.
The film follows Robert Bilott (Ruffalo), a corporate lawyer who defends chemical companies. When Wilbur Tennant (Camp) a farmer from West Virginia, comes to Robert to investigate why his cows keep dying, Robert discovers that maybe the companies he’s been representing for all these years haven’t been as honest as he’s hoped they’ve been. Considering that much like Spotlight, Dark Waters is based on a true story, it really makes you realize just how evil some of these companies will be just to make a profit. They release any semblance of morality purely for the sake of money and it’s borderline sickening to watch. You feel like you need to take a shower after watching the scenes with the DuPont executives and I’m grateful men like Robert stand up and do what is right even when it isn’t easy. Speaking of Robert, Ruffalo gives one of his best performances in years and shows that even out of his more mainstream roles in the MCU he still has what it takes to lead a serious, slower-paced thriller that highlights evil in human form. Robert isn’t just representing a lowly farmer from West Virginia, but he’s also putting his career and the life of his family at risk by entering this battle with one of the most powerful companies in the country. In a more limited capacity, Hathaway is strong in her role as Robert’s emotionally strong and supporting wife Sarah who wants her husband to succeed but also understands the toll this process is taking on her and her family. After the rough start Hathaway’s had this year, she really needed something to stand out and show audiences that’s she just as good as she’s always been. She might not be the main focus of this movie, but she does a good job of stabilizing every scene she’s in and keeping the movie level and balanced. Dark Waters may not be the overwhelming success that many of those involved were hoping for, but as this year’s depiction of just how bad things can get when he let corporations do whatever they want without consequences, it’s definitely one of the stronger ones in recent memory. Ruffalo is an amazing talent in more dramatic movies like this and I hope to see more performances like this from him in the future.
Overall, I think everyone was expecting a little more out of Dark Waters given the lineup of everyone involved in it, but it’s still a more than respectable thriller just in time for Oscar season. Given Haynes’ history of just coming up short with some of his past movies, it looks like Dark Waters will continue to follow this trend. Ruffalo carries this movie and once again shows it doesn’t matter what capacity he’s in he brings his best at all times. I don’t know what it’s going to take for Haynes to break through that upper ceiling, but I think if everyone involved keeps trying, eventually they will get the recognition that they deserve.
Overall Score: 8/10