Directed by: Todd Haynes Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, Bill Pullman
Teflon is famous for the fact that nothing sticks to it. Their coated pans revolutionised cooking for more people than would probably care to admit it (seriously keep an eye on your food and don’t rely on it not sticking to your pan if it burns!) Seemingly, its manufacturers felt that the non-stick principle applied to them also, going by this movie, which is based on fact.
This is one of those ‘everyman fighting the good fight offerings’, a la Erin Brokovich or Spotlight. In this case, the ‘everyman’ is lawyer, Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) who is approached by a neighbour of his grandmother, claiming that there have been unexplained deaths in his area and his livestock have been compromised, because of the actions of corporate giant, DuPont, who have a manufacturing plant nearby. He believes the by-products of their process are causing the issues.
The problem is that Bilott’s firm actually work for DuPont. But given his good relationship with them, he tries to smooth things over.
However, the deeper he delves into the information he has been given, the more it becomes apparent that there is something very wrong. People were basically poisoned by the internationally-known company, and he is forced to pursue the case and investigation at great personal cost, before eventually getting the result he wanted, and compensation for the victims.
It’s not a spoiler to say Bilott eventually won– it is a matter of public record. Ruffalo does a great job in the role, absolutely conveying his frustrations and passion for the case.
And everyone in the stellar cast is fantastic. Visually, this strikes exactly the right tone – its muted palette suits the story perfectly. However, this is a very dense tale with massive complexities, and Haynes has included pretty much every element of it. At times, the legalese and negotiations can become tedious.
However, it remains gripping, because you are constantly aware that this is the story of real people and their suffering. Even when the pace dips, you are anxious to see justice served. It very much honours the victims and vilifies the corporation. This isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but, done well, it makes for a powerful cinema experience.
This could do with a bit more excitement. It drags at times, and often gets bogged down in its own worthiness, but it is saved by a wonderful and passionate performance from Ruffalo, and the sheer frustration and anger you feel as a viewer, that a corporation was allowed to get away with such nefarious dealings.
This is the kind of movie that demands focus, and if you are looking for a light-hearted popcorn flick, then this isn’t it. But it is a solid true-life drama that will definitely outrage and move you. And in a nice touch, many of the real-life characters feature as extras throughout, which is highlighted in the credits.
In Cinemas February 28th! Trailer below: