DIR:Todd Haynes • WRI: Mario Correa, Matthew Michael Carnahan • DOP: Edward Lachman • ED: Affonso Gonçalves • DES: Rick Carter, Kevin Jenkins • PRO: Pamela Koffler, Mark Ruffalo, Christine Vachon• MUS: Marcelo Zarvos • DES: Hannah Beachler • CAST: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins
Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), corporate defence attorney at Taft Law, goes from defending the large chemical companies, to suing them in Todd Haynes’ telling of the true story of Bilott’s fight against the chemical company DuPont. Dark Waters is based on Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times article ‘The lawyer who became DuPont’s worst nightmare’, published in 2016 (if you haven’t read the article, I highly recommend you do). The film has been out in the US since early December and is going down very well with audiences and critics alike. Personally, I wasn’t expecting to like this film, looking at the trailer I thought I would find it long, drawn-out, and boring; how wrong I was. I was hooked, from beginning to end, the evidence coming to light throughout the movie just became more and more shocking, and unbelievable, yet it is true. I have not seen Erin Brockovich (I know, shocking), but I have been told that the two stories are somewhat similar.
Bilott receives a visit from a farmer (Wilbur Tennant) living in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Tennant (Bill Camp) tells Bilott that his livestock are dying because of the chemicals DuPont is releasing from their Dry Run landfill into the creek on his land, which his cows drink from, poisoning them. This visit sparks Bilott’s struggle to help the community of Parkersburg, and more, through his bringing to light evidence that proved how DuPont knowingly poisoned thousands of people over four decades. Tennant visited Bilott in 1998, in 2015 Bilott was still fighting against DuPont. The film spans over years, showing the struggles Bilott undergoes, both in his family life and career, because of this one case. It highlights how it consumes him, constantly tears him down, and yet he still fights. However, Dark Waters is not a film that ‘hero-worships’ its protagonist, it merely gives the story of this man in a real and stark way.
Ruffalo’s performance is so good as to make you believe that he is Robert Bilott, you almost forget that it is Mark Ruffalo on screen, both him and the story just sucks you in completely. The grey, sepia tones of the movie adds to the overall feel of this disturbing story, complementing it perfectly. You won’t be able to leave this movie without feeling a paranoia surrounding the water you drink and the items you cook with; people were getting cancer, babies were being born with deformities, women were becoming infertile, because they were consuming the air and water that DuPont were filling with harmful amounts of chemicals in their area. What about Teflon? You’ll notice the name from some of your cookware items, ever think it was poisonous? Well it turns out, Teflon was owned by DuPont, and was being made with the same chemical (PFOA or C-8) that was being released into the water supply of Parkersburg.
I left this film reeling from the information that came to light, unable to fathom how a company could get away with killing people and destroying lives for so long. I cannot recommend this film enough, it is gripping, real, and shocking, and has only made me want to know more about this story, and the lawyer who risked his life and career to hold DuPont to account.
12A (see IFCO for details)
Dark Waters is released 28th February 2020