Unlike other Hollywood actors, Johnny Depp is difficult to box into a specific genre. He’s stolen the heart of every pirate-loving millennial in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, given goosebumps to those who have seen his performance in Secret Window, left audiences on the edge of their seats in the action film Public Enemies, and made us all raise our eyebrows when he put on the Mad Hatter’s hat in Alice in Wonderland—he’s truly an enigmatic actor. In a career that’s spanned nearly 40 years and created nearly 100 projects, Depp’s done it all, and you can now watch one of his most underrated dramas, Minamata, on the Disney-owned streamer, Hulu.
Minamata, a Johnny Depp biographical drama, is finally available to stream on Hulu.
Minamata, the 2020 biographical drama starring Johnny Depp, directed by Andrew Levitas, is a compelling exploration of photojournalism’s power and corporate greed’s impact on innocent lives. The film is based on the real-life experiences of American photographer W. Eugene Smith—a man who has been labeled by The Guardian as “the single most important American photographer in the development of the editorial photo essay.” The movie follows Smith as he travels to the Japanese coastal community of Minamata to document the devastating effects of mercury poisoning on the population who live there.
Set in 1971, the movie opens as Johnny Depp’s Smith emerges from self-imposed isolation to embark on a mission that will expose a heart-wrenching truth. Smith, a renowned photographer known for his photo essays in Life magazine, is persuaded by a passionate Japanese translator named Aileen to document the horrors of mercury poisoning caused by the Chisso chemical company. The film poignantly portrays Smith’s journey to gain the afflicted community’s trust and reveal the disease’s shocking reality.
As Johnny Depp’s Smith immerses himself in Minamata, he becomes a witness and a victim of the corruption perpetuating the suffering. The plot skillfully balances Smith’s personal struggles with his determination to capture the truth, ultimately leading to an impactful portrayal of the real-life consequences of corporate negligence.
Johnny Depp transforms into a gritty and determined photojournalist in Minamata, as he portrays a version of the real-life artist who exposed the disastrous situation. Depp is joined in the movie by a stellar cast that includes Akiko Iwase, Bill Nighy, and Minami, who contribute strong performances that elevate the authenticity of the narrative. The feature was written by David Kessler, Stephen Deuters, and Levitas.
Minamata is an intense drama, but Johnny Depp excels in the difficult role, hailed by critics as the best part of the movie.
Filmed in Japan, Serbia, and Montenegro, Minamata captures the somber beauty of the coastal landscapes, juxtaposing them with the stark reality of the mercury poisoning’s aftermath. Drawing from Johnny Depp and the rest of the cast’s incredible performances, Director Andrew Levitas skillfully navigates between intimate character moments and sweeping environmental shots, creating a visual narrative that immerses viewers in Smith’s mission.
Minamata received a mixed yet generally positive reception from critics, with almost unanimous praise for Johnny Depp’s performance. The Donnie Brasco actor was lauded for delivering a delicate and mature performance, with many critics claiming that his acting was the best part of the film. Some criticized Levitas’s directing, claiming that while well-intentioned, sometimes it was a bit grandiose, though many admitted that the film was especially good when the story focused on the characters.
The film’s exploration of environmental issues, corporate accountability, and journalistic integrity resonated with many, acknowledging its relevance in today’s world. Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Smith’s determination and the power of photography garnered appreciation for its emotional impact.
Unfortunately, despite critical acclaim, the film was not well received at the box office. Minamata has accumulated $1.7 million worldwide, countering a budget of $11 to $13 million. The profit loss comes after Johnny Depp renegotiated his salary down $3 million in order to keep the film within budget.
Part of the problem with Minamata, and why it was previously hard to fans to find, is that MGM kept delaying its release as Johnny Depp’s trial started. Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired the film, eventually releasing it on February 11, 2022. Now that Depp is recovering from his Hollywood exile, it’s finally available to stream on the Disney-owned Hulu service.
After Amber Heard went public with accusations against Johnny Depp, Hollywood exiled the star, going so far as to bury Minamata without a wide release.
Minamata offers audiences a poignant glimpse into the world of photojournalism and its potential to effect change. Johnny Depp’s transformation into W. Eugene Smith, along with the supporting cast and captivating production, brings to life a remarkable story that remains relevant today. While the film navigates some narrative challenges, its overall message of resilience, truth, and the pursuit of justice shines through.
As Minamata unearths the disturbing effects of corporate greed and the importance of shedding light on hidden truths, it leaves viewers contemplating the power of images to create awareness and drive social change. In a world where injustices persist, Johnny Depp’s Minamata reminds us of the crucial role that journalism and art can play in advocating for a better future.