A-Ron’s New Movie Reviews: Dark Waters

One Of The Top 5 Films Of 2019! Mark Ruffalo stars as real life lawyer Robert Bilott, who is out to prove in a decades long battle, that DuPont have knowingly exposed millions of consumers to dangerous levels of toxins. “Dark Waters” is a prime example of a film that was made to win at the Oscars. It is one of the most important motion pictures in quite sometime. You’ll emerge from it feeling paranoid, shocked, astounded at the depth the cover-up went and feeling anything but safe. “Dark Waters” is simply brilliant cinematic work. 

“Dark Waters” is not a remake or reboot of the 2005 Jennifer Connelly horror remake titled “Dark Water”. Instead “Dark Waters” is a grim legal thriller based on true events. Although it can be established as a horror film, not of the supernatural but of the realistic deep cover corporate kind. 

Based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare”, which chronicles the legal battle against the mighty and deep-pocketed DuPont company, that went on in legal battles for more than a decade. 

It all starts with Wilbur Tennant, a West Virginia farmer who is convinced DuPont has dumped toxic chemical waste into the Dry Run Creek where his animals drink and literally poisoning his cattle, his land and maybe his family as well.

The great Bill Camp (“The Kitchen”) plays Wilbur, who demands that Cincinnati lawyer Robert Bilott will represent him. Wilbur wants Robert because he is acquainted with Robert’s grandmother, who lives in the same depressed, working-class West Virginia town where Robert grew up.

Robert explains he can’t take the case. While his firm specializes in environmental law, Robert’s specialty is defending the big-time chemical corporations. In fact, his law firm is hoping to land Du Pont as a client. Robert is soon horrified to see evidence of animals born with gruesome birth defects. He’s stunned to learn Wilbur has had to bury more than 100 cattle that have died prematurely. He’s taken aback to see Wilbur’s daughters and town members have blackened teeth, that is possibly caused by tainted tap water. 

Wilbur himself has cancer, and dozens of former DuPont employees has been struck with serious and often fatal illnesses. Like real life lawyer Robert Bilott, “Dark Waters” is out to nail DuPont and prove that they have knowingly exposed thousands, if not millions of consumers to dangerous levels of toxins. Every time Robert gets close to proving his case, he’s thwarted by DuPont’s vast resources and an army of attorneys willing to delay the case for as long as it takes. 

I want to avoid saying as much as possible. It’s best to go in not knowing anything and uncover the pieces along with Robert as the evidence gets deeper and deeper in DuPont’s cover-up. Just when he thinks he finds the end to it all, Robert gets knocked down again and more gets uncovered and the deeper it all goes. 

Playing Robert Bilott is Mark Ruffalo who is an expert at playing the everyday man, while being the smartest guy in the room. He has played characters such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist against the Catholic Churches in the Academy Award winning “Spotlight”. As the San Francisco police detective who is investigating the Zodiac murders in “Zodiac”, or even as Dr. Bruce Banner in the “Avengers” movies.

In “Dark Waters”, Ruffalo has a role he was born to play, and he knocks it out of the park that deserves an Oscar nomination. “Dark Waters” was made for the Oscars. Give it what it deserves: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Screenplay. 

The supporting cast is outstanding including Tim Robbins who has a more nuanced role, but kills it particularly in one outburst sequence as Tom Terp, the senior partner at Robert’s law firm. Also in excellent performances is Bill Pullman, Bill Camp and Anne Hathaway. 

Screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa’s script is sharp and smartly written. The two writers aren’t afraid to get fully invested and in-depth into documenting the lengths DuPont went to deny contamination was a thing, and how bent they were on not taking responsibility for what they had done.

Directed in a straightforward style, but deserving of an Oscar nomination by indie filmmaker Todd Haynes (“Safe,” “I’m Not There,” “Carol,”). “Dark Waters” is a true-life David v. Goliath corporate legal thriller with echoes of films such as John Travolta’s criminally underrated “A Civil Action”, Meryl Streep’s “Silkwood”, “All The Presidents Men” and reminiscent with what Michael Mann did with “The Insider” (Al Pacino and Russell Crowe) twenty years ago.

“Dark Waters” isn’t a legal thriller in the sense of a John Grisham movie, but it is one of the most intriguingly grim legal films you’ll ever see. You’ll emerge from it feeling paranoid, shocked, astounded at the depth the cover-up went and feeling anything but safe. “Dark Waters” is one of the most important motion pictures I’ve seen in sometime as director Todd Haynes keeps the film stunningly real and intricately crafted. It’s absolutely one of the year’s top 5 best films. 

GRADE: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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