This legal drama will have you thinking twice about the pans you cook with, the carpet your baby crawls on, and the water you drink. A departure from the typical Todd Haynes indie film (Wonderstruck, Carol, and I’m Not There), Dark Waters is a slow roll build-up to the most recent civil action lawsuit against corporate chemical giant, Dupont.
Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is a Cincinnati lawyer with roots in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Not long after making partner at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister law firm, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) a farmer from Bilott’s hometown, approaches him about suing Dupont for poisoning his herd of cattle. Although he normally defends chemical corporations, Tennant’s declaration that Bilott’s grandmother referred his name motivates him to explore the claim further. And what he uncovers is both astonishing and deeply disturbing.
This fact-based, no-frills drama isn’t as flashy as Erin Brockovich, but Ruffalo’s portrayal of underdog Bilott captures the steadfast and morally-driven motivations required to fight negligent corporations with deep pockets. Supported by wife and former lawyer, Sarah Bilott (Anne Hathaway), Ruffalo’s lengthy journey reveals the hardships placed on his family and the even greater suffering of an entire community who were lied to by the hand that fed them — Dupont.
With a rollercoaster ride of grotesque atrocities, vindications, and continuous setbacks, this environmental drama will leave its audience questioning the government’s ability to protect the public from greedy, big corporations. Without Bilott’s diligence, we would never have discovered the life-threatening effects of PFOA and Teflon. Dark Waters shines a light on the power of corporate money, their ability to rig the system, and the failings of our government agencies through their use of the “grandfather” clause. It’s an excellent representation of how cinema can enlighten and embolden its audience to action.
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Director: Todd Haynes
Actors: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Bill Pullman, and Mare Winningham
Genre: Docudrama, History, Biography, Drama
Runtime: 126 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images, and strong language