The plot of Big Business and or Big Government against the commoner with a rigged outcome as the likely result has been the foundation for some memorable films. The Rainmaker, Runaway Jury, and A Civil Action are the juicy and colorful versions that come to mind. The Insider and The Verdict are the brooding darker editions that immediately jump out to me. Spotlight the Academy Award Winner for 2015 is a blend of both.
Dark Waters produced by and starring Mark Ruffalo is of the brooding, dark, and completely exhausting ilk. By the films’ end the characters are completely drained and so it could be said for most viewers. Dark Waters does not sugar coat or lighten things up.
Director Todd Haynes (Carol) creates a pace and landscape which demonstrates with great effect how overwhelming a fight against the system in the wrong can be made to atone for its sins can feel. Cinematographer Edward Lachman (Erin Brockovich) cements the feeling with a cool, dreary, and not quite winter not quite fall lighting and setting.
The roles for the supporting cast of Anne Hathaway (Devil Wears Prada), Tim Robbins (Mystic River), Bill Camp (12 Years A Slave), and Mare Winningham (Threshold) are solid and fairly well performed. The actors are challenged lines evolking the same dreary and likely outcome.
Dark Waters wants the viewer to feel what the actors are experiencing. It succeeds, but be careful what you wish for.
It should be noted that by Hollywood standards this film about lawyer Bill Billot and his fight against E.I. Dupont Chemical and its Teflon product is a true story.