Dark Waters is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
The legal drama/thriller has been a mainstay of cinema for years, enthralling audiences with stories of the lone legal professional who takes on the military, Government or big business for the public good. However, these dramas are often simplistic in tone, summarising long and bitter legal battles in a standard runtime. But in Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters, based on the New York Times magazine article by Nathaniel Rich, a true spit and sawdust battle for public health and wellbeing find a rich, complex and enthralling voice. Here the endless determination of one man to speak truth to power is intoxicating and powerful. From 1998 to the present day, Haynes carves a riveting portrait of the power one individual can hold despite the corruption and intimidation of the corporate machine surrounding them.
Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is a corporate lawyer from Ohio who has built his career on representing the interests of powerful chemical companies. But when an angry and downtrodden West Virginia farmer, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), turns up at his office, Bilott finds himself intrigued by Tennant’s horrifying story. Tennant’s livestock is dying from rare cancers, madness and disease; his farm a stone’s throw from the global chemical giant Dupont. However, the truth is far darker than anyone could imagine, as Dupont spews the chemicals used to produce their wonder product ‘Teflon’ into the streams and rivers surrounding their plant.
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Haynes nimbly dissects the relationship between Government, corporate giants and local people, exploring the fear, arrogance, economic manipulation and power of big business. These dark waters surround every conversation, every interaction and lie as Bilott unpicks the horrors of Teflon. Here Mark Ruffalo excels as a reluctant hero while also demonstrating the emotional toll of his unwitting role as a defender of the public.
Dark Waters excels in reflecting the greed and manipulation of Dupont and the travesty of a failed political response and regulatory standards. Here Haynes asks us all to question the motivations of big business and the interface between public good, profit and image, offering us one of the finest legal dramas of the past year.
Director: Todd Haynes