But "Dark Waters" is still a strong and involving, though understated, example of this dying breed of film, resonating with present-day feelings of hopelessness at the brazen corruption on display every day in the United States, and throughout the world. Haynes might not initially seem like the kind of director you'd expect to see attached to this sort of project. But he has a keen eye for the narratively meaningful camera move (notice how often the movie starts a scene in darkness or by zeroing in on an out-of-focus element, then gradually makes the image clear) and undeniable skill with actors (Victor Garber as the CEO of DuPont is a perfect distillation of the nice-guy arrogance of the super-rich). The script is good at showing the hero doing the necessary work to get to a breakthrough, whether by sitting by himself on the floor of a storage room and going through hundreds of boxes of evidence documents, or carefully re-reading a letter from DuPont until he realizes it doesn't say what everyone else thinks it says. (How often do movies make reading comprehension cinematic? Almost never.)
The scenes with the cows form the dark heart of the film. Bilott has no experience of such animals but anybody can see that something is wrong. Distorted, mutated corpses are scattered around the farm in various states of burial. Another cow lies on the ground, moaning in obvious distress as Tennant tries to explain what's wrong with her, but all he can see are the symptoms, which seem to make no sense. He's attached to his animals; Camp's intense performance shows us the impact of living through such devastating loss, especially when a previously healthy animal loses her mind and has to be shot. One is reminded of the sense of helplessness in HP Lovecraft's pastoral tragedy The Colour Out Of Space. Tennant is just an ordinary working class man - he feels no more able to get justice from a giant corporation than from an alien presence. The gulf in power between this grieving man struggling in the mud and the expensively suited businessmen who inhabit the glass towers of Bilott's familiar world could not be more striking.
If at first this doesn't much resemble Todd Haynes' usual work, that changes as we spend more time in middle class domestic spaces, offices and waiting rooms. Haynes' habit of placing his characters slightly lower in the frame than we're used to emphasises the smallness of all the individuals we meet in comparison to the corporate and social machines of which they are part. There is no shortage of that darkness that he taps into so effectively, and his characteristic quietness of approach is well suited to a story in which apathy and negligence add as much to that as any direct action. Indeed, at no point is it suggested that DuPont had ill intent - simply that it failed to make changes and instead covered up emerging evidence that something was very, very wrong. 041b061a72