A corporate defence lawyer takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company in this emotionally charged and decidedly understated drama from acclaimed director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Carol, Wonderstruck).
Written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan, Dark Waters is based on a New York Times magazine article titled The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare by Nathaniel Rich.
Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is a respected corporate lawyer working with big chemical companies helping them pollute without breaking the law. When he is approached by West Virginia farmer Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) regarding a number of unexplained deaths on his farm which he blames DuPont – one of the world’s largest corporations – Robert is conflicted about representing Wilbur against his own interests.
Robert soon finds himself battling with his own conscience and deep catholic faith leading him to question the work he’s been doing until now. Against his better Judgement and that of his wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway), he takes on the case against Phil Donnelly (a fantastic turn from Victor Garber), the C.E.O of the DuPont, who vows to fight him and anyone sullying the name of his company.
Todd Haynes presents a sedate, yet immeasurably precise court-room drama which seems far less concerned with the minutiae of the story itself than with Billot’s own redemptive arc. And although there is a lot of procedure to sit through before being allowed to enjoy the big pay off, Haynes actually manages to pull off somewhat of a coup by making the story into both a personal one, and one that most of us watching can and will relate to.
Mark Ruffalo gives an beautifully measured performance as a man struggling to come to terms with his demons who eventually finds the courage to make a difference. For his Part, Bill Camp gives manages a tour de force as the quiet man turned whistleblower.
With hints of Erin Brockovich, The Insider or even more recently the engaging, but flawed Richard Jewell, Dark Waters does what is expected from it, but is careful not to succumb to obvious contrivances. Haynes has given us a film that refuses to fall into facile courtroom drama schtick, choosing instead to tell a very moving story about a selfless act of redemption and triumph of good over evil.
Dark Waters is in Cinemas fro Friday February 28th.