PG Score: 7.5/10
Dark Waters is a well-made film about a disturbing true story. It centers on Robert Bilott, a corporate defense attorney (played by Mark Ruffalo) who heads up an environmental lawsuit against the DuPont chemical company. It examines the extensive history of pollution the company exposes a small town in West Virginia to, as well as the rest of the nation. It covers a timeline that spans decades of corruption, negligence, malpractice and flat out deceit by the corporate behemoth that is DuPont. Dark Waters has a lot of information to cover over a period that spans decades. As a result, it gets right into it from the start. I appreciated the fact that the film dives right into the material and builds the characters as it goes, rather than having unnecessary character development before getting into the real meat and potatoes, so to speak. This approach benefits both the viewer and the film itself. Rob Bilott is a successful attorney that specializes in corporate defense. As such, his career is based upon defending large companies such as DuPont. The fact that he ends up going after them to hold them accountable is not only noble but also makes for a very interesting dynamic to witness onscreen. Much of the film has the classic “David vs. Goliath” feel, in that Bilott is tasked with defending the “little guy” against the big, bad bully. His gradual shift from apprehension towards looking into a farmer’s claims of DuPont poisoning the water, to devoting his life to the case, is fascinating. Ruffalo does a great job of portraying the toll it takes on his character from both a career and moral standpoint. This is some of his best work and showcases his ability as a lead actor. Anne Hathaway does an impressive job as his wife, Sarah. She expertly conveys the damage the case causes her and her family and she is involved in a few of the film’s more powerful scenes. Her prowess in a serious role is on full display here. Tim Robbins plays Tom Terp, who is Rob’s boss caught in an awkward position of doing the right thing and maintaining his relations with the corporations his firm defends. Robbins delivers a strong performance and, as always, is a delight to watch work onscreen. Bill Camp’s performance as the farmer, Wilbur Tennant, is also worth noting. I really felt his pain after having his life destroyed by DuPont. This is one of the finest performances I’ve seen from him. The pacing for the first half Dark Waters is spot on. It gets right into it and really doesn’t slow down. Once we get into the later acts, things drag quite a bit. It gets pretty slow in the second act and although it doesn’t ruin the movie by any means, it definitely hurts it. Thankfully, the final act picks up quite a bit and goes a long way towards filling the void left by the slower middle portion. Dark Waters is a very good take on a very unsettling true story. While it does lose some steam in the middle, the rest of the film makes it worthy of my recommendation.