Minamata review – Johnny Depp attempts redemption in heartfelt look at disaster that struck Japanese town

Depp plays real-life US photojournalist W Eugene Smith who travels to cover the story of mercury poisoning that caused horrendous disfigurements

Minamata is not a masterpiece and there are one or two cliches here about western saviours and boozy, difficult, passionate journalists who occupy the perennial Venn diagram overlap between integrity and alcoholism. This movie’s producer-star Johnny Depp has form on this score, with his starstruck impersonation of Hunter Thompson. And once again, he has chosen a role in which he wears a hat indoors. But 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.

Depp plays real-life US photojournalist W Eugene Smith whose glory days were in the second world war and the decades following, working for Life magazine in that now-forgotten era when analogue cameras were incapable of lying and magazines with compelling photos could command newsstand sales.

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