Dark Waters, rated PG-13
Dark Waters is a film inspired by the real-life legal battle against DuPont over the release of a toxic chemical in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The film is directed by Oscar nominee Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven), written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs), and based on the New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich.
Robert Bilott, played by three-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, Foxcatcher, The Kids Are Alright), is a Cincinnati, Ohio attorney on the environmental team, and new partner at Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, a firm that represents major corporations. He is interrupted during an important meeting by Wilbur Tennant, played by Emmy nominee Bill Camp (The Night Of), who lives in Parkersburg, West Virginia, Bilott’s grandmother’s hometown. Robert’s grandmother had told Tennant to go see Bilott about the cattle on his farm that were dying. Tennant is convinced that DuPont, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, has poisoned a stream on his farm that the cattle drink from. Bilott tells Tennant that he is a corporate defense attorney who defends chemical companies, not individuals. But after visiting his grandmother, Bilott decides to look into Tennant’s situation. What he finds is that 190 of Tennant’s cattle have died. Robert makes the decision to take Tennant’s case.Oscar winner Tim Robbins (Mystic River), stars as Tom Terp, Bilott’s boss and senior managing partner of their law firm. Although hesitant at first, Terp becomes one of Bilott’s strongest allies, even though Tennant cannot pay for the firm’s services. Oscar winner Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), stars as Bilott’s supportive wife Sarah. We see the strain that the case puts on the growing Bilott family as the case drags on over more than a dozen years.
Will Bilott be able to prove that DuPont is at fault? What else might he find as he tries to uncover the truth about the cattle? And how can he, a single attorney, go up against the powerful DuPont?
The film features a strong cast. Six-time Emmy nominee Victor Garber (Will & Grace, Alias, Frasier, Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows), portrays Phil Donnelly the CEO of DuPont, who throws up roadblock after roadblock against Robert. Bill Pullman (The Sinner), portrays Harry Dietzler, a personal injury lawyer who works with Robert in his class-action suit against DuPont. Oscar nominee Mare Winningham (Georgia), portrays Darlene Kiger, a Parkersburg resident whose first husband was a chemist for DuPont.
Themes in the film include the pursuit of truth, justice, compassion, cover-up, and perseverance. Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language and the abuse of God’s and Jesus’s names. The film does include some Christian content, showing that the Bilott’s are a Roman Catholic family that attends mass and prays at the dinner table.
The film includes a strong acting performance from Ruffalo, one of today’s finest actors.
Dark Waters is a well-made and acted film inspired by a true story, though it is somewhat marred by a significant amount of adult language.