A labor of love for its producer and star, Mark Ruffalo, Dark Waters is another well-made exhibit in the pantheon of what I call the Davy versus Goliath film genre. Here we have a lawyer in the pockets of corporations suddenly changing gears and going after a faceless corporation doing untold harm to residents in small town West Virginia. In this case it’s the Dupont Corporation and the harm being done was the toxic by product of Teflon, a substance used in the manufacture of cookware that was deemed indestructible not so many years ago. The toxic waste was dumped into the ground of the community where the plant resided that not only manufactured the cookware but also employed a large number of the area’s citizens. Due to the stagnant economic conditions most folks turned a blind eye to what was going on since the idea of not having gainful employment seemed like a scarier prospect than ingesting the chemical involved in the production of Teflon known as PFOA.

Bill Camp and Mark Ruffalo in Dark Waters

The film covers the fifteen-year battle of its protagonist, Robert Bilott (Ruffalo), that began when a local farmer cornered Bilott with videotapes containing evidence of the corporate malfeasance transpiring. Billott at first is hesitant and only takes the case due to the fact that the farmer was a referral from Billott’s grandmother. Once he gets involved things get dirtier and deeper, threatening to also ruin Bilott’s marriage in the process.

Todd Haynes, (the excellent Carol and Far From Heaven), doesn’t seem like the logical choice for this kind of film but he proves to be more than up to the task. His directorial flourishes hammer the film’s points home in a profound way that doesn’t bludgeon the audience over the head or sermonize. The result is an engrossing film that’s likely to leave you more than a bit angry when it’s all said and done.

Dark Waters is playing locally.
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