Incident at Dark River (TV Movie 1989) Poster

(1989 TV Movie)

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7/10
Striking Back Against Evil.
rsoonsa22 April 2006
Made for and first shown upon the Turner Network, this not inconsiderably budgeted work, filmed in Provo, Utah, with its lead, Mike Farrell scripting much of it and credited as executive producer, contains themes important to Farrell of the dangers from environmental pollution, and the manner in which the greed of corporate commercial entities affects the attitudes of much of the U. S. citizenry. Action opens at a park picnic for town families, the festivities receiving financial backing from Star Brite, a local battery manufacturer and the community's largest source of employment. The corporation's support is appreciated by all in attendance, including Tim McFall (Farrell), a building maintenance worker for a town hospital, but his favourable opinion for the industrial outfit is abruptly ended when his young daughter Kathleen dies of toxic poisoning, and Tim's dogged attempts to discover the cause of the tragedy lead him to Star Brite and its careless disposal process of toxic waste into a river that runs adjacent to the park where the picnic was held. Not surprisingly, McFall's efforts to expose the responsibility of Star Brite for his child's death are unsuccessful, in the main because the corporation, in addition to the town citizenry whose loyalty to it is based upon employment concerns, are resistant to his investigation, and even Tim's grieving wife Betty (Tess Harper) is displeased with his search for a reason of the poisoning, his only consistent ally for the distraught father being Jesse (Helen Hunt), a young student and environmental activist at the college where Tim works. Jesse accompanies Tim to the state office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where they learn that this bureaucratic unit is not merely impotent but to a great extent subservient to precisely the type of corporate organization that McFall is struggling against, while she also assists him, through a friend who is a reporter for the local newspaper, by having a front-page report published about his plight, an article that commands the attention of the entire community (for the wrong reasons), placing Tim increasingly under fire by the town's opinion makers since Star Brite controls other nearby employers, including the college and the hospital where McFall and his wife respectively work. Finally Betty, believing that her husband's judgement has been impaired by the loss of Kathleen, leaves him, taking their son with her, as well, and Tim in desperation plans a climacteric act against Star Brite that is intended to reveal the corporation's culpability in his daughter's passing, while at the same time redeeming his marriage. There are relatively few lapses in logic within this film, such as why only Kathleen, of all the town's children, should have fallen to the deadly effects of heavy metal effluvium seeping into the river's bed load, while the primary strength of the work comes from able direction from Michael Pressman, and a screenplay that is particularly well-crafted, with a fine attention to detail, including naturalistic dialogue; also to the good, creative cinematographer Jacek Laskus avoids undo reliance upon uninteresting mid length shots with a fixed camera. This is, purely and simply, a didactic melodrama, yet these mentioned merits in addition to sincere playing contribute to making this an effectively presented film, with top-flight performances provided by the principals, and by the excellent supporting player Philip Baker Hall as a research physician supportive of McFall's determination to bring a corporate industrial entity to bay.
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