The documentary Dark Money sheds light on the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 that opened the door to undisclosed corporate funding of smear campaigns and political agendas that served not we, the people, but they, the big-pocketed rich and powerful. Although the subject is highly relevant, it might not sound like a scintillating night at the movies. But director Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons) smartly grabs our attention by using the gorgeous and thinly populated state of Montana as a microcosm for the ongoing corruption of the election process. Continue reading…
The “Big Sky Country” state has a history of being exploited by industrial entities, with Exhibit A being a copper-mining concern whose legacy includes a toxic body of water that causes snow geese to die en masse on its shores. To protect the land and the people from outside influences, Montana passed the most stringent campaign laws in the country in 1912.
But that changed once the Citizens United decision suggested that corporations should be treated like people and a contribution was as innocent as holding up a political sign. But Reed is able to avoid a parade of talking heads and instead capitalizes on a Capra-esque local investigative reporter named John Adams, who – despite being laid off from his newspaper job – helps uncover a scandal that amounts to unethical and illegal influence peddling on a grand scale. There is a girlish whistle blower, a villain who is terrible at lying in court and a verdict that is one of the more satisfying moments in a movie this year.
Besides being able to translate what could be a tangle of rules and regulations into high drama, Reed manages to turn Dark Money into a very human story that is relatively bipartisan. She even finds a way to cleverly tie this smaller case to the larger picture of campaign corruption on a national level from, yes, foreign entities.