Director: Todd Haynes
Talent: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins
Released: 28 February
“In a small town, in a close community, a secret is hiding beneath the surface.” No, Dark Waters isn’t the latest Stephen King adaptation for the big screen but rather Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, Carol) tackling the evil of big business. In 1999, Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a partner in a law firm and a specialist in helping corporations negotiate environmental regulations switched sides and sued the chemical leviathan that is DuPont in a class-action suit on behalf of seventy thousand residents of West Virginia and Ohio.
DuPont were knowingly dumping several thousand tons of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a toxic, nonbiodegradable chemical used in making Teflon—thereby poisoning hundreds of acres of land, killing and deforming animals, contaminating the water supply, and doing long-term, irreversible damage to the health of the community. Turns out West Virginia isn’t almost heaven after all and as was the case with our former ‘Teflon’ Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, it all comes unstuck in the end. An eighteen-year legal struggled ensued until Bilott won a $671m settlement for 3500 people who filed claims. Bilott = good guy. DuPont = bad guys. From the makers of Spotlight…
Dark Waters joins a few others recent release tales of human endurance such as Just Mercy in exploring the injustices of our times. It’s a tried-and-tested formula for quality film-making, a good old fashioned, human interest drama which has been competed to Erin Brockovich. And Haynes is a solid and safe pair of hands with this material. It’s one of his more conventional efforts which he considers “a primer on how to live with as much knowledge and awareness as possible.” Anne Hathaway plays his pregnant wife Sarah, frustrated by his the all-consuming nature of his quest. Though it fails to delve much deeper into this. It’s a bigger picture story.
“There’s no silver bullet, no magic solutions,” says Haynes. “There’s no way to just end corporate greed and corruption. But there are steps to take, and we just have to keep taking them.” The alarm bells are ringing on so many aspects of society right now, the concern is do they get away with it if we chose to muffle the noise.
Words: Michael McDermott