Dark Waters


Dark Waters is a compelling look at one man’s fight against the corrupt practices of a multi-billion dollar company. 

Based on a true story, Dark Waters follows Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate lawyer who gets a call from a family friend named Wilbur (Bill Camp) about a disturbance on his farm in West Virginia. Over 100 of Wilbur’s cows have died and he suspects it has something to do with the creek running through his property. Wilbur’s hunch becomes a frightening truth as Rob investigates decades’ worth of wrong-doing by the DuPont chemical company.

Mark Ruffalo does a fine job here as Rob Bilott. He’s playing the legal scenes with conviction, but he feels more like a vessel to receive information than a fully- formed character. We see plenty of Bilott’s moral standards, but we rarely get a sense of what drives him to do the work he does or who he is emotionally. It makes it harder to fully connect with and invest in his character. A performance worth noting with much less screen time is Bill Pullman as lawyer Harry Dietzler. Pullman gives Dark Waters a boost of energy. He’s not comedic relief, but he’s certainly a breath of fresh air. 

Todd Haynes’s direction is both impressive and overbearing. Haynes has a flair for stylistic flourishes in his other films and here the moody, muted lighting that clouds much of the film creates a feeling of anxiety that makes every step of Rob’s journey and what he discovers uncomfortable in a very effective way. By the same token, the color scheme is dark and dreary throughout and the film ends up with a dull sheen and a tone that feels at times heavy-handed. 

An aspect of the filmmaking I love is the use of tracking shots to show not only the lives that DuPont destroyed but the communities too. Dark Waters is unflinching when it comes to depicting the consequences of DuPont’s malpractice. It tells and more specifically, shows it like it in a way that rightfully stirs up an audience reaction of anger and injustice.

I give Dark Waters 3 out of 5 stars. If you’re looking for a good or feel-good time at the cinema for the holidays, this isn’t it, but Dark Waters is an informative and important film. Dark Waters opens in theaters on November 27th.

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