Before I saw Dark Waters, I had no idea about the toxic, deadly nature of the chemical products that exist in our everyday lives. Based on a New York Times article, Dark Waters chronicles lawyer Robert Bilott’s determined action against DuPont. Embedded in and almost totally controlling Parkersburg, West Virginia, DuPont’s contamination of the local water supply comes to Bilott’s attention by way of farmer Wilbur Tennant.
Over decades, DuPont had used and understood the risks of C8 or PFOA (used to create Teflon) which causes kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), and pregnancy-induced hypertension, without disclosing this information or regulating its use.
The bottom line, PFOA was making DuPont too much money. The film follows Bilott’s initial scepticism, through to his incredulity at DuPont’s actions, horror at the widespread usage of the product and eventual laser-focused determination in seeking justice.
Dark Waters Review
While I wouldn’t call Dark Waters a horror-film, I walked out of the cinema terrified. Director Todd Haynes has done an exceptional job at turning a huge number of acronyms, data and statistics into an engaging and engrossing narrative. Central to this narrative is Mark Ruffalo’s Bilott. Bilott is a softly spoken, ragged, defence lawyer, working for companies like DuPont.
Ruffalo plays him like an everyman, more comfortable in his office than at home, Billot slowly becomes grimly determined to uncover the truth at any cost.
Dark Waters explores corporate negligence on an almost unimaginable scale, revealing just how damaging PFOA is to humans while looking at the underlying cause for inaction; greed.
Ruffalo owns this movie with his portrayal of Bilott and events unfold through his eyes. Watching as he shifts positions and slowly uncovers the details of the case is fascinating and Ruffalo brings true nuance and skill to the performance. If Ruffalo had been any less convincing, Dark Waters would be a hard film to connect with.
However, through Ruffalo, we empathise with the citizens of Parkersburg, their families and the absolute hell that DuPont created.
Dark Waters is highly recommended as a slow-burn legal drama and will have you double-checking everything gin your house.
Leo Stevenson attended an advanced screening of Dark Waters as a guest of Universal.
Movie title: Dark Waters