Cert 12A Stars 4

Take a dip in the deep and murky legal waters of this outrageous and terrifying real life US drama involving corruption, cover up and cancer.

Mark Ruffalo is best known as Marvel superhero The Hulk, and he’s used his career muscle to produce this weighty, important, and righteous David versus Goliath battle, which makes great use of his intelligence, understated charm, and ability to project decency and integrity.

He stars as Robert Bilott, a lawyer who spends the best part of two decades working on an environmental lawsuit against one of the world’s largest chemical companies, DuPont, after he discovers they’ve been dumping toxic waste into the water, air and land of his home town where one of their major factories is based.

It’s a by-product of Teflon, used not just nonstick pans, but cars, carpets, make-up and lots of other everyday household products.

And DuPont have spent forty years poisoning the townsfolk including their own workers, and burying the scientific evidence which proved they knew it caused birth defects and tumours.

It’s a horrifying account of corporate skulduggery, but director Todd Haynes is as keen on the great personal sacrifice involved in Robert’s Damascene conversion from being a defender of wealthy corporations to the champion of powerless individuals.

There are three great supporting performances by Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins and Bill Pullman, and the script works hard to condense an incredibly lengthy and complex case, and reduces the science to a level an idiot such as myself can understand.

However thriller elements such as arson, break-ins and the threat of car bombs feel almost an oversight, and the tone is suitably dour, with occasional lighter moments of lawyer humour.

As someone who grew up in Middlesbrough, the former home of the UK’s chemical industry, this wasn’t as shocking for me as it may be for some, but it’s a powerful and hugely disturbing watch.

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