Some stories deserve, or even need, to be brought to the big screen and be made as public and exposed to as many people as possible. Dark Waters is one such tale, which recounts a story so shocking and terrifying that you’ll watch the credits feeling slightly uneasy. Unfortunately, a story this important also needs to be entertaining and while Dark Waters is never boring, it struggles to move beyond a formulaic “true story” recounting.
The ingredients for something much better are all there. The story is focused upon a lawyer taking on a big company which could well have introduced a shocking amount of pollutant not just into local waters but into the environment with much more catastrophic effects. The phrase “based on a true story” holds unnerving meaning in this case.
The cast is also very strong. Mark Ruffalo plays an amazing every-man under-dog and as a quiet representative for the oppressed citizens of a local town, he is a man you can root for. Add to this some effective support from Bill Pullman and Tim Robbins and you get some idea of how impactful this story could be. It is a shame however, that Anne Hathaway feels reduced to the worrying wife stereotype so easily and can never break through some lazy writing.
That laziness pervades the whole film. It isn’t that the movie is bad but you can’t get away from feeling like more tension could have been added in places or more dramatic moments played for some entertainment rather than a much colder, stark account of events. This is still effective but it feels uninspired and your attention will begin to drift as the ending is in sight.
The actual ending is dragged out. There is a logical conclusion to the film and then the conclusion that the creators of Dark Waters chose, which is one that insists on telling this story to its fullest, even if this means losing the sharp, entertaining aspect of the movie as it does so. However, you won’t be able to avoid that shiver down your spine as the epilogue-text is on-screen and you realise what this movie could mean for you personally.
Overall, Dark Waters is a well-told, effective retelling of a shocking story. Ruffalo is well-cast, and ably supported by some impressive actors, although Hathaway is shamelessly wasted. The telling is also uninspiring and very “by-the-book” which means cold facts often surpass entertainment.
Rating – 3.5
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