20191206-todo-dark-waters

Mark Ruffalo stars as Robert Bilott in "Dark Waters." FOCUS FEATURES/courtesy

Whistleblowers are in the news these days, and just like that, here comes a whistleblower film: Todd Haynes’ “Dark Waters,” the based-on-fact story of Cincinnati attorney Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), who took on a case that revealed how the vast corporation DuPont exposed a community to serious chemical harm. Unfolding over two decades, it was an unlikely case for Bilott – a partner at a posh law firm who was more accustomed to defending Big Chem corporations than accusing them _ and one that ended up obsessing him.

It’s a thoughtful, stylishly directed film with an important message _ so why does it feel just the littlest bit flat? Perhaps because it so carefully follows the well-traveled ground of this type of movie: the sleek conference rooms full of chuckling men in suits; the One Good Man initially reluctant to help but drawn in by the power of the case; the sad-eyed regular folks on whose behalf he fights; the blandly supportive spouse (Anne Hathaway, her talents mostly wasted here); the mysterious late-night scene in a dark parking garage (a staple of this genre); the careful explanation of science, delivered from one character to another but really intended for the audience; the long-awaited Big Reveal.

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