Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber
Director Todd Haynes tones down the sumptuous visuals for this stirring profile of the tenacious attorney Robert Bilott who pursued chemical company DuPont for malpractice over several years. It begins in 1998 with Bilott (Ruffalo), working as a corporate defence attorney, in a meeting with boss Tom Terp (Robbins). It’s interrupted by gruff dairy farmer Wilbur Tennant (Camp), an acquaintance of his West Virginia grandmother who turns up in reception with piles of VHS tapes, claiming the creek next to his farm has been poisoned by DuPont. Bilott is reluctant to get involved, but drops by the farm anyway while checking in with his grandmother. He is horrified by what he finds and begins an investigation into years of criminal negligence on the company’s part. Save for some very effective early sequences that almost play like a sci-fi horror, there’s nothing that new here: the plot unfurls as expected and the blue and grey colour scheme borrows heavily from recent political conspiracy thrillers (as well as the 70s film that inspired them). But it’s briskly paced and exceptionally well-acted: Ruffalo is as reliable as ever, while Hathaway makes the most of the thankless role as wife Sarah, whose patience with her husband’s obsession is running out. It’s Camp, as beleaguered farmer Tennant, who lingers longest in the memory however, as the actor heartbreakingly conveys the vulnerability and hurt behind his character’s brusque exterior. Does John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’ get a bitterly ironic airing? Of course if does.