Corporate defense attorney Rob Bilott has just made partner at his prestigious Cincinnati law firm in large part due to his work defending Big Chem companies. He finds himself conflicted after he’s contacted by two farmers who believe that the local DuPont plant is dumping toxic waste in the area landfill that is destroying their fields and killing their cattle. Hoping to learn the truth about just what is happening, Bilott, with help from his supervising partner in the firm, Tom Terp, files a complaint that marks the beginning of an epic 15-year fight—one that will not only test his relationship with his wife, his reputation, his health and his livelihood.
Plot: A corporate defense attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.
Director: Todd Haynes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Runtime: 126 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Dark Waters powerfully relays a real-life tale of infuriating malfeasance, honoring the victims and laying blame squarely at the feet of the perpetrators.
“An impactful film you won’t soon forget.”
Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate lawyer from Cincinnati, Ohio works for law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister where he’s visited by farmer by the name of Wilbur Tennant. He asks that Robert look into unexplained deaths in Parkersburg, West Virginia to one of the world’s largest corporations, DuPont. To further his case he gives Robert a large case of videotapes which Robert puts aside.
Even though Robert is a corporate defense lawyer helping chemical companies pollute without breaking the law, he still visits the Tennants’ farm as a gesture of respect and kindness, especially since his grandmother still lives in the presumed affected area. When he arrives at the farm it is revealed to him that over the past couple of years the farmer has lost over 190 cows to strange medical conditions. While at the farm, Robert witnesses the problem first hand when Tennant is forced to put down a tumor-covered cow.
Even though Robert is on very good terms with executives at DuPont, he brings up the subject with DuPont attorney Phil Donnelly (Victor Garber) who very politely tells him he’s not aware of what may be going on, but he will help if needed. From here, Robert files a small suit so he can gain information through legal discovery of the chemicals that have been dumped on the site. He doesn’t find anything useful, but quickly realizes it’s possible that whatever poisoned Tennant’s cattle could be something that’s not regulated by the EPA. From here, Robert forces DuPont to turn over all of its information… Easy done? Nope. In a clear attempt to hide the truth, DuPont sends Robert hundreds of boxes hoping to bury the evidence, but Robert does the exact opposite, he goes through every single box and finds numerous references to PFOA, a chemical with no references in any medical textbook.
What is PFOA? What is it doing to the environment? You will need to watch the film to find out.
In conclusion —
This film was one of the handful of movies I didn’t get around to seeing in 2019. I’ve heard nothing but good things and I can tell you after last night’s viewing that it’s been confirmed. This is an impactful film you won’t soon forget — it’s a real-life scandal that literally effects everyone on this planet. The film, which can get heavy at times lays out all the groundwork with detail and direction at every step. That’s what I appreciated the most as a viewer, instead of focusing on a hero and a villain, the movie supported itself on facts and a great acting cast.
Once we finally get to the end of the film, I wish I could’ve had another three hours worth of time on the first three cases and how they went about showcasing what they learned to the court and jurors. It may have been riddled with detail to the nerdiest level, but I would have enjoyed learning more about it. This movie took it’s time to develop itself and I wanted more of it — you might find yourself in a similar position.
When it comes to the bonus features you get to meet the real people from Parkersburg who were impacted first-hand by the contaminated water as they share their experiences being on set and taking part in the film. Beyond that, you get an inside look into the storytelling behind the real-life story and the filmmakers discussing the importance of telling this story and empowering whistle-blowers. It’s enough material to get you invested in the film even more!
Taking everything I’ve said into account, Dark Waters gets my recommendation for an automatic day-one purchase. It’s a great movie worth your time to learn, watch and own, so do yourself a favor, grab a copy at your local retailer when it releases on Blu-ray & DVD March 3rd. You won’t be disappointed.
Did you catch Dark Waters in theater? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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