DARK WATERS: A Reflective Social Commentary On An Alarming Issue

Editor’s embarrassing confession moment #1: I’ve had the teensiest tiniest little lady-crush on Mark Ruffalo since the early days of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and ZODIAC. In my eyes, The Ruffs can do no wrong.
Editor’s embarrassing confession moment #2: One of my favourite “Chicken Soup Movies” is ERIN BROKOVICH. You know the one? Where Julia Roberts plays the real-life lawyer’s assistant who helps bring a corporation to it’s knees after learning how they’re poisoning the town’s water supply. (Oh and a Chicken Soup Movie is one that you play if you’re having a bad day, or are home with the flu. Its one that you’ve seen multiple times and it’s become a predictable and comforting favourite.)
Editor’s embarrassing confession moment #3: DARK WATERS sounds like it’s two of my secret favourites all rolled in to one but – perhaps like you – I hadn’t heard of it until the screening invite came over Salty’s way. It’s a shame because it looks like a corker of a film that perhaps just didn’t have the required advertising budget to be on everyone’s radar.
Looking like it’s positioned to be a bit of a sleeper hit, DARK WATERS certainly seems to deliver the goods and should hopefully do well with word-of-mouth advertising. Since the Oscar winning SPOTLIGHT in 2016, it’s a role we’re familiar with seeing Ruffalo portray, and everyone loves a good David and Goliath drama. – Salty Claire

DARK WATERS is Rated M, runs for 126mins and is releasing on March 5th from the good people at Focus Features. Enjoy Kernel Elie’s review!

Bill Camp and Mark Ruffalo in Dark Waters

BY ELIE ELKORR

SYNOPSIS:

Tenacious attorney Rob Bilott uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths to DuPont – one of the world’s largest Chemical corporations. While trying to expose the truth, he soon finds himself risking his future, his family and his own life. What unfolds is a gruelling 20-year battle for systematic justice. Answers and hidden truths continue to remain moot in present-day society.

Anne Hathaway and Mark Ruffalo in Dark Waters

RUFFALO HAS FOUND A HULK CURE:

Mark Ruffalo (THE AVENGERS FRANCHISE, SPOTLIGHT) serves up an assured and composed performance as a newly promoted corporate attorney. He completely sells the role of a real David v Goliath story for societal justice. His nuanced, forlorn demeanour gradually becomes the forefront of DARK WATERS. This further captures the burden of Rob Bilott’s quest to collapse the corporate pillar. The subtext (overly) depicted in the film serves to show that even for a relentless working machine-like Rob Bilott, a human being still has their limits. Director Todd Haynes (I’M NOT THERE, CAROL) opts for a greyscale colour pallet. It completely sucks out whatever life DARK WATERS had to begin with. However, for a film centred around human ethics and corporate villainy, Dark Waters justifies this lifeless aesthetic. There will be no Guardians, God of Thunder, or even Taika Waititi (JOJO RABBIT) coming to rainbow-up this joint.

Bill Camp and Jim Azelvandre in Dark Waters

ROBBINS OWNS THE ROOM:

DARK WATERS provides a talented ensemble of actors to rival Rob Bilott’s persistence. Anne Hathaway (LES MISERABLES, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) as Sarah Bilott does a fine job portraying a frustrated mother, wife and, former attorney. There isn’t much depth given to her character; however, her exchanges with Ruffalo suffice enough to buy into their plagued marriage.

Tim Robbins (SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, MYSTIC RIVER) as Tom Terp is great as an understandably frustrated attorney. Frustrated by Bilott’s antics and persistence, ROBBINS owns the room. One particular scene will have audiences fist-pounding with relief. The two standouts are Bill Camp (12 YEARS A SLAVE, JOKER) as Wilbur Tennant and Bill Pullman as Harry Dietzler. Camp is fantastic as an aggrieved farmer who is the sole reason Bilott ever begins working on the historical case. Pullman is just an on-screen delight. It’s a small cameo for sure, but Pullman has never made a courtroom look more exciting. His quirky quips and remarks steal the scene. 

TIm Robbins as Tom Terp in Dark Waters

IS EVERY PRODUCT WE USE SLOWLY KILLING US? 

DARK WATERS is a captivating true story that will undoubtedly raise a few questions. A human-made chemical created for army tanks was inherited for the mass production of Teflon. It’s a compound that now occupies almost every product used in daily life. Thanks to DuPont, the compound has even lurked its way into the very tap water we drink. DuPont swiftly grossed billions in profits each year without breaking a sweat about the implications. For the majority of Americans and the small town of Parkesburg in West Virginia, the consequences are horrifying. Through their actions, DuPont displays a distinct disregard for the sanctity of human life.

Bilott’s quest consumes his everyday life. For the bigwigs, everything can be solved with a pen and a simple question; “how many zeros would you like?” The shifty tactics adopted by the corporate overlords adds to the frustration as DARK WATERS treads along. Despite this, the story has a heightened level of intrigue and relevance. The viewers will be on board for the investigative ride. For a film that spans across more than two decades, DARK WATERS manages to flow smoothly. The main downfall of the film is its failure to deliver the killer sucker-punch ending. Considering DARK WATERS centres around justice, viewers may leave thinking they received anything but a just finale. With a runtime of 126mins, writer Matthew Carnahan (WORLD WAR Z, DEEPWATER HORIZON) may have tied it all up a few minutes too soon.

Ruffalo as Rob Bilott in Dark Waters

THE FINAL CHAPTER?

DARK WATERS is a reflective social commentary that tackles an alarming issue prominent today. It doesn’t barrage its audience with full-blown chemistry lectures. Instead it fixates on the deceitful nature of corporate shills who place the bottom line above human life. The scope, severity and scandal of DARK WATERS will leave audiences informed and anxious about their future purchasing choices and product usages. Who knows what other corporate schemes linger behind the scenes today? An eye-opener for the public, it’s a step in the right direction towards environmental and human protection.

KERNEL ELIE’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Elie Elkorr is a proud film critic and writer for Salty Popcorn. He is a movie fanatic and also runs his own Twitter page for movie reviews and news @TweetEReviews1. He likes calling out movies when they provide social commentary rather than focusing on actual story and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. His views are his own. He is also a Law and Film student on the side and is the heir to being Black Widow’s Boyfriend. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.