The Reel Review
Dark Waters is the deeply disturbing, true story of attorney Tom Bilott, who exposed DuPont’s decades-long, chemical contamination of thousands of people in and around Parkersburg, West Virginia.
In an era where we have all grown accustomed to, and even jaded by the now formulaic, feel good style of these types of hero-takes-on-the-system muckraking dramas (The China Syndrome, Silkwood, Erin Brockovich, Michael Clayton, et al), director Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven) takes the genre to a darker, more ominous place, instilling an overwhelming sense of dread in its nearly every frame. Its message, that corporate America is now bigger, badder and more impossible than ever to beat is so strong it is stifling. Even the cinematography, with its misty, gloomy grays, powerless, impoverished residents, archival TV news footage, and DuPont’s strangling presence everywhere, is oppressive.
Mark Ruffalo, who also produces Dark Waters, is compelling as the former corporate defense attorney turned obsessed victims advocate, as is Anne Hathaway as his wife who must endure personal hardships for all his efforts. Perhaps the most memorable, however, is Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave, Vice), as the frustrated, despondent farmer, displaying a gut wrenching level of despair as he shows Bilott videotapes of his rotting cattle, his livelihood dying before his very eyes. Despite Dark Waters‘ hopeful ending, you can’t help but continue to feel disturbed, knowing that the chemical causing all these cancers (the main chemical compound in Teflon) is now present in EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.
• Initially titled Dry Run, Dark Waters is the second film in which Mark Ruffalo has appeared with ties to the DuPont family. The first was 2014’s Foxcatcher.
• Dark Waters was inspired by this 2016 New York Times Magazine article.
• Tony award nominee Bill Camp has appeared in FOUR films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: 2012’s Lincoln, 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, 2014’s Birdman and 2018’s Vice – the middle two films won.