‘Dark Waters’ review: Mark Ruffalo vs DuPont in bumbling legal thriller

Based on a true story, corporate defence lawyer Rob Bilott becomes an unlikely crusader against a multinational chemicals company

Kelly Ho |

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Slow-drip legal thriller Dark Waters tells a chilling story of corporate negligence, but the flaws in execution diminish the impact of the shocking real-life tale.

Directed by Todd Haynes, the film follows a corporate defence lawyer Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) who uncovers a dark secret. He learns that the massive chemical company DuPont is responsible for a number of unexplained deaths.

Rob, used to defend massive companies, but decides to risk his career, family and even his life to switch sides and become the unlikely crusader for the victims in a chemical poisoning case.

The real-life events are enticing, but the film is unsatisfying. The first weakness lies in a tendency to tell rather than show. Rob realises the case is much bigger than expected, but Haynes presents his revelations in a conversation between Rob and his wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway). It makes the audience feel like they are not part of the thrilling investigation, but rather outsiders watching the story unfold.

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Another flaw is inconsistent characterisation, especially Sarah, who flip-flops between overworked housewife, who complains often of her husband’s absence, to ardent supporter. This leads to a third issue: with so little meaningful screen time, casting an actor of Hathaway’s calibre is a waste.

All in all, Dark Waters is patchy and does not do justice to the powerful true story.