Todd Haynes isn’t a film-maker that I’ve had a lot of experience with. Ok, so I’ve not seen any of his previous films so I waded into Dark Waters with no expectations whatsoever.
Turns out that this is an extremely well put together and well told story of the underdog getting one over on corporate intransigence and superiority. All the while superbly underpinned by the competent and invested performance from Mark Ruffalo as he goes about firstly uncovering and then exposing the disdain for the public that chemical giants DuPont showed.
A West Virginian farmer, Tennant (an abrasive and direct Bill Camp) brings his plight to corporate lawyer Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) to look into the possible poisoning of his animals and pointing the finger at chemical mega-firm DuPont. And here begins Bilott’s divergence from his quiet path up the law firm’s ranks.
There is a certain sense of sticking it to the big guns here, the underdog getting it’s day and it is certainly warranted as DuPont’s reach and resources are phenomenal in comparison to the initial one-man outfit that this investigation starts out with. The ball does get rolling and, once it does, it is hard to divert it as more and more malfeasance comes to light.
For a legal procedural, Dark Waters does very well to keep your attention, provide details and keep the viewer interested, always tying the issues back to the human element, never remaining in legal-limbo for too long. Mark Ruffalo is likeable and you do root for him, and those he represents, as the heat is turned up and especially as the injustices keep coming. Personal sacrifice and commitment are in abundance here as life and loves are put to one side while this important work is carried out.
There is going to be a certain amount of fictionalisation to the script but a little digging into this shows that it is based on some truths within the DuPont history, so in that sense there is real life experience here and, as a nice touch, some of the major players in real life are dotted around the film in various scenes and showcased in the end credits along with a wrap up of where this legal matter has lead to.