From the top of the food chain to a pariah, Johnny Depp was, just a few years ago, one of the biggest names in the film world. He was the number one choice of casting directors around the world. Then he got into some trouble and, whether you believe his side of the story or his ex-wife’s, it led to him becoming an untouchable. He would not be cast for fear of the backlash for hiring him. As a result, his film roles of late have been few and far between.

Instead of starring in big budget film series like Pirates of Caribbean or Fantastic Beasts, he has worked on a couple of smaller films over the past couple of years. His latest is Minamata by co-writer/director Andrew Levitas (Lullaby). Minamata is based on a true story about famous photojournalist Eugene Smith (Johnny Depp). By 1971, having burned most bridges of the professional and personal variety, despite being a respected photographer who famously shot photos during World War II, Smith lives a rather solitary life and does not get hired. Living as a virtual recluse, Smith is no longer in touch with the world he once was able to capture with his camera.

Thrown a bone by Life Magazine’s editor, Robert Hayes (Bill Nighy – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1), Smith travels to a coastal town in Japan called Minamata. It is a city that has been plagued with mercury poisoning. People are dying but no one is listening to them as the company responsible for the mercury, Chisso Corporation, is too powerful.

The cynical Smith finds himself siding with the people of Minamata, who are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Smith, using only his camera, attempts to show the world what is going on and get some acknowledgment of the situation by Chisso Corporation and the Japanese government.

Maybe Depp should stick with low-budget films as this is his best film in a long time. Despite what you might think of the man, he more than services the film with a strong performance. He seems totally committed.

You cannot watch the film but be shocked by what went on and moved by the beautiful black and white photos of the residents of the city. A touching story made even more so because you know it is true. That people actually went through this horror at the hands of a large corporation only concerned with making money.

Makes you wonder how many of these types of stories exist through time and space. It is surely not the only time that people somewhere on this planet were made sick or even died because of a company producing something toxic. Stay for the credits as you will learn of many different chemical pollution disasters that have happened in the United States and Europe through the years. Heartbreaking that money is placed above human life.