A nearly unrecognizable Johnny Depp plays Life war photographer W. Eugene Smith in this earnest look at his mission to document a pollution-ravaged Japanese community.
In documenting what came to be known as Minamata disease, Smith showed the world what toxic chemicals were doing to a community, paving the way for a different kind of war, one of personal political activism carried forward by Andrew Levitas’ impressive look at this high-impact last-act triumph in Smith’s career.
The drama finds him in his declining years, drunk, depressed, impossible to work with – and of course ripe for redemption. By chance, he finds himself befriended by Japanese-American Aileen (Minami Hinase) who alerts him to an environmental atrocity in Japan that he could do something about, if he chose to rouse himself from his grumpy self-indulgent ennui.
‘Minamata’ is a forthright, heartfelt movie, an old-fashioned “issue picture” with a worthwhile story to tell about how communities can stand up to overweening corporations and how journalists dedicated to truthful news can help them. Great support from master composer Ryuichi Sakamoto in top form.