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Jaw-dropping ‘Dark Waters’ sees great Ruffalo performance

I wasn’t expecting to have the urge to double check my kitchen pans after watching this one. Movies like this are important, not just because of its exceptional quality, but also the grave relevance it has now. The aptly named “Dark Waters” is a cut above the rest, constructed with such finesse that other legal thrillers could only hope to touch.

When a farmer complains his cows are dying because of a nearby chemical company, Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a determined lawyer, finds that this seemingly small discovery is quite monumental. Risking the safety of his life as well as others, Bilott continues to undercover what is lurking in the dark waters.

Starting small, and continuing to build on itself, the script worked much like the snowball effect. For the first two thirds of the film, the pacing hit a perfect stride. One scene led into the next so fluidly that it kept you wanting more. There was no time to breathe, which is not common for most legal thrillers as there is often too much downtime. However, the last third of the film slows down, containing a few clichÈs that serve little substance to the plot other than screen time. Everything does wrap up nicely in the film’s final scene, showing that this story isn’t over yet.

The structure of the film acts like it’s keeping a secret at first. The way the film hides pivotal information that details what the main premise really is, allows for a true shock when the moment approaches; thus, the ensuing reaction is like that of that characters. It is one of those shocks that rattles your core, questioning not only how such heinous acts can be allowed but how they are still allowed currently.

Kudos to the amount of research done to accurately help the viewer experience what Robert Bilott went through. Also hats off the Ruffalo, giving one of his best performances in years. He imitated Bilott so precisely from getting his timid personality right, to his resting face with a slight frown. Anne Hathaway is great as well, but is underutilized for much of the film, doing an actress with her talent a disservice. Only until the end does she get her time to shine.

Similar to the murky waters Ruffalo is treading in, the film adopts a overtly dark blue color palette, signifying the conditions the characters are living in. There is also some subtext of racial and gender discrimination, which seems out of left field — it is more forced than it needs to be.

Don’t sleep on this one. “Dark Waters” very well may be one of those films that are forgotten in the midst of Oscar season, but that doesn’t mean this investigation piece isn’t worthy of everyone’s attention. Jaw-dropping at times, this true story is one that will certainly leave an impact, perhaps even scaring you after leaving the theater.

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