Dark Waters – Film Review
Director: Todd Haynes
Writers: Nathaniel Rich (based on The New York Times magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by), Mario Correa (screenplay)
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins
Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) is a lawyer busy climbing the ladder to corporate success. One day he is visited by a farmer, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), who asks for his help. The farmer in question knows his grandmother, so Robert struggles to ignore him. He asks Robert to visit his farm and see for himself. There the ground is no longer fertile and his livestock are dying. The farmer thinks it is related to the chemical plant beside his farm. The plant in question makes Teflon, the non-stick coating of frying pans and other pots. The plant is the main source of employment in the town and when Robert starts to dig a little deeper, he meets all types of local and corporate resistance to his efforts.
The most depressing thing about this film is that it is based on a true story, which should come as no real surprise. There have been other films of this type in recent years, such as Erin Brockovich, Micahel Clayton and others. We’re well aware that companies will ignore the risks to humanity in search of the almighty dollar, but it never hurts to hear it one more time to hammer the point home.
The film is directed by Todd Haynes, who shows how versatile he is as a director, moving to a very different style of film. In recent years, he has directed personal dramas such as Carol and Wonderstruck. The film does have a personal side, as we see the impact this case has on Robert’s family, with his wife Sarah Barlage Bilott (Anne Hathaway) questioning his motivation, along with highlighting the impact it has on Robert’s health. Tim Robbins also has a small role as Robert’s boss Tom Terp, and it’s always good to see him on screen.
The problem with films such as this is that we know the outcome before it even starts. They have clearly defined plots and we know who the bad guys are (the ones with the suits) and who the good guys are (generally jeans and t-shirts). The only small deviation from this is the fact that Robert started on the other side of the divide before seeing the light. While there is nothing too original in the story, it is well-acted and the tale is quite convincing and frustrating. It was a well-made story of David versus Goliath, showing corporate greed for what it is.