Okay, so mega-chemical-corporation and macro-environment-polluter DuPont de Nemours, Inc. is so powerful and impossible to control that the company could completely wreck one corner of West Virginia for close to fifty years, and no one, least of all a crusading farmer whose land is turned into a toxic sludge dump, can do anything about it? Yes, and Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters is here to tell us all about it.
We don’t usually think of Haynes as a director of public-spirited protest narratives. After all, he’s the guy whose early short related the tragic story of pop singer Karen Carpenter using Barbie dolls, before going on to direct gay-themed remakes of All That Heaven Allows and Mildred Pierce, plus a tribute to Bob Dylan. What he’s doing tromping through the hazardous waste with do-gooder attorney Mark Ruffalo and wronged farmer Bill Camp – portraying real-life characters from a magazine piece by Nathaniel Rich, adapted by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa – is not immediately clear.
What’s abundantly clear is that Dark Waters has a murky, frustrated feel to it that may have everything to do with its subject, but makes for a dreary, warmed-over-Erin-Brockovich drama that will send its audience out into the night determined to throw away all their Teflon frying pans, immediately. It’s hard to see how this film could be anything more than that. A true curiosity. Approach with caution.