A horrifying story ripped from the headlines, Dark Waters proves watchable thanks to the inspired performances by Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, and others. While the trajectory of the film could bog down in legalese, the script from Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan allows director Todd Haynes to keep the flow moving forward as the twenty-year battle of lawyer Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) wears on his health, his relationships, and his career. He is the champion of truth and justice who sees the impact of DuPont’s chemicals on the community in West Virginia and refuses to be silent about what he knows, even when it could cost him everything.
Over and over again throughout the film (carefully chronicled by periodic reminders of the passing of years), Bilott proves that he will not back down, that he is “still here.” It becomes clear that while Bilott’s wife (Hathaway) does not always appreciate his dogged approach to the case to the detriment of their family, she does love and support him. Even more than that, she proves to be the audience’s reminder of Bilott’s faith, encouraging him by reminding him that he “saw a person suffering and did the Christian thing and helped him,” even though the person was a stranger.
In a world where consumerism and capitalism drive many of society’s decisions, Dark Waters stands firm on the stance that some things are right and some things are wrong. The film’s integrity is derived from Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bilott, of an everyman who saw a need and couldn’t turn aside from that. It’s a reminder that not every battle is fought with fists, and that sometimes, the Christian way is simply speaking to the truth even when everyone around expects silence.
The Dove Take:
Due to its use of inappropriate language, Dark Waters can only approved for discerning audiences that are 18+.