Based on the New York Times article "The Lawyer Who Became Dupont's Worst Nightmare". 2019's DARK WATERS is a harrowing and enlightening tour through the deepest corridors of corporate malfeasance.
Mark Ruffalo stars as said attorney, Rob Billott. After finally moving up the ladder at his law firm, Billott is approached by two farmers that know his grandmother back in West Virginia.
He's soon drawn in by that connection, visiting farmer Wilbur Tennant at his decaying property adjacent to a massive Dupont plant. Tennant (Bill Camp of "Joker") has watched hundreds of his livestock turn mad or die as they drink from the stream that feeds onto his property.
Director Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven) paints everything in West Virginia in dying grays and blues, making the cities seem malignant in every corner.
The deeper Billott is pulled into the case, the greater the discoveries of Dupont's criminal intent and complete disregard for human life.
Victor Garber (Argo) is excellent as a senior Dupont executive who can't understand why Billott has "changed sides". When he dumps hundreds of thousands of pages of docs into Billott's lap as pushback during discovery, he fails to understand that he's just given Rob everything he needs to pursue justice.
Tim Robbins is very good as the senior lawyer at Billott's firm, at first hesitant but then pulled into Rob's quest for what's right.
The weakest link in the cast is Anne Hathaway, horribly miscast as Rob's wife Sarah. Hathaway can't hold a candle to Ruffalo and disappears any time they're on screen together. Mare Winningham is great as one of the Dupont employees, she would have been amazing as Sarah.
It's hard for me to believe this is the same Mark Ruffalo that plays the Hulk in the Marvel films. He is so rumpled and pudgy here, constantly pursing his lips or hiding behind a wall of silence that betrays his lack of confidence. Only when he's interviewing a witness or in a courtroom does he emerge with the power of his convictions.
Watching this true story unfold over the course of many years is painful and exasperating. As the film concludes, you learn the fate of all involved and get glimpses of some of the real people who played small parts in the film.
Powerful and loaded with suspense & discovery, DARK WATERS gets an A.
Now excuse me while I go look through all my cupboards for Teflon. If the final statement written on screen before the credits start doesn't terrify every citizen of the world, it should....