Dark Waters (2019)
Directed by Todd Haynes (Wonderstruck, Far From Heaven) from a screenplay by Mathew Michael Carnahan (21 Bridges, World War Z) and Mario Correa.
Dark Waters tells the true story of one mans battle against a corporation that led to a very public lawsuit against DuPont, who were the makers of C8. Which was a chemical compound that was used for decades to make non-stick coatings most commonly used in your average cookware. The film is based of the 2016 article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich that was published in the New York Times Magazine. Dark Waters follows the story of Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) in the real-life legal battle against DuPont for releasing an extremely toxic chemical into Parkersburg, West Virginia water supply that ended up effecting over 70,000 of the population and livestock.
The film opens up the beautiful streets of Parkersburg, West Virginia, in 1975. As we see a few older teenagers without a care in the world enjoying themselves by driving to the lake and skinny-dipping, but then the atmosphere quickly turns dark and rather menacing, as one of the teenagers happens to notice something about the water and just as he’s about to say something we see two men driving in boat dressed in head to toe in what seems to be radiation suits spraying the water with something. Then the film jumps to the year 1998 in Cincinnati, Ohio we now meet Robert Bilott who is a prestigious lawyer that specializes in defending corporations, until one day his meeting is interrupted by a farmer named Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) who was referred to him by Robert’s own grandmother. So Wilbur tries to explain that something has been poisoning and even killing his cattle, and he whole heartedly believes the company DuPont is responsible for it. At first Robert just tries to offer him other lawyer recommendations but Wilbur wasn’t having it, and just says “I Want You” and drops the box full of evidence he has.
Finally Robert decides to take a look at the evidence that Wilbur had. It seems he documented some of the carnage. Soon he realizes Wilbur could be right and takes a look at the case. At first Robert gets in contact with an executive at DuPont that he knows Phil Donnelly (Victor Garber) and explains the situation, but Donnelly insists it’s just a misunderstanding, well that couldn’t have been further from the truth. So Robert moves full steam a head with the case even though Robert’s boss Tom Terp (Tim Robbins) has major concerns regarding it. But after a quick conversation Terp tells him to be “surgical” about it and gives his blessing to move forward. After a while Robert begins to realize what’s really going on, which causes him start to panic. So when he gets home he starts to go through his kitchen cupboards, until his wife Sarah Bilott (Anne Hathaway) sees him and she starts to get very emotional over it, since she has know idea what was actually happening with her husband. So he explains the whole ordeal to her, that actually leads to my favorite performance of the film by Hathaway.
Though I do wish she would’ve had a larger role in the film, but she still does a brilliant job with what she has. Many years go by as he investigates, we see their children grow and the marriage get tested. Eventually Robert gains the help of two lawyers Harry Dietzler (Bill Pullman) and Larry Winter (Kevin Crowley) to help fight over a decade long legal battle. During that time he uncovered many horrific dark secrets, such as testing co- workers, illegally dumping chemicals, and knowingly giving people cancer. All over corporate greed. It took many years before justice was finally given to the people effected by the horrible actions of DuPont. Honestly this brilliant film had me engaged from start to finish. “Dark Waters” is truly a captivating story that needed to be told.
It’s a top tier legal thriller, up there with likes of Erin Brockovich. Mark Ruffalo was absolutely superb in this. He reminds us how great of an actor he truly is.