His long-term isolation, drinking and disrespect for authority add up negatively, but in the end he convinces the boss. After arriving in Minamata, he is confronted with a harsh reality as he gradually discovers what is causing the paralysis of the local children and the trembling limbs of the adults.
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For ten years, the inhabitants have been threatened by dangerous mercury released by the local chemical factory into the sea, whose animals are the main source of the local diet. Although here and there Smith looks deeper into the bottle of whiskey than is healthy, so for example he loses an expensive camera for a while, but the photography consumes him.
He immerses himself in the local community of people, and finds a faithful and courageous partner in the young photographer who brought him here. He sympathizes with activists demanding an apology for the children’s fatal disabilities and financial compensation, but he also becomes the target of attacks by the chemist, for whom his stay is an unexpected complication.
The theme of the film is an important one and, unfortunately, an eternal one in history, especially around the pollution of the seas and the ruthlessness of the culprits.
However, his approach and method of narration (directed by Andrew Levitas) do not offer anything extraordinary, the struggle of individuals with the arrogance of the corporation has already been handled more imaginatively by others (The Chinese Syndrome, The Firm or Dark Waters). In addition, the effort to build tension goes hand in hand with the fact that the informed viewer knows how the story will turn out. Smith eventually took his key collection of stirring photos overseas and published them on Life, including the famous portrait of a mother with a disabled child in a bath.
More than the somewhat lackluster narrative pace and predictable conclusion with no plot surprises, other things are interesting in Minamata. For example, the end credits regarding the fact that the heroine Aileen is still fighting against the pollution of Japan’s seas today. Or a nice nostalgia when looking at the contemporary methods of photographic creation – negatives, good old developers and fixers, from the surface of which a captured image of reality slowly emerges on the photographic paper.
Depp’s charisma endures
Attention is also drawn to some small actors and the mosaic of their everyday mini-stories. From an apathetic boy with neurological hand tremors, whose face lights up even a camera borrowed from Smith, to a courageous activist fighting for compensation for the disabled, to parents hiding their child’s paralyzed body from the lens.
It also works convincingly thanks to good casting – let’s mention at least Hiroyuki Sanada (known for example from The Last Samurai or Avengers: Endgame) and Minami in the role of Smith’s assistant Aileen, who later became his wife.
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This, of course, also applies to American and British actors. About Bill Nighy in the role of sharp editor-in-chief Robert Hayes and especially Johnny Depp, whose stylization as an overgrown recluse and drunkard in a beret is simple, but he works convincingly with the camera and has the gift of refreshing even an average film. Which is the case.
Rating of the Journal: 65 percent