Review of Dark Waters written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa. Directed by Todd Haynes
I’m a fan of those who expose wrongdoing, whether that be in print, documentary, or film. In the case of Dark Waters, the wrongdoings of chemical giant Dupont have led to treatments in all three formats. Regardless of who is telling the story or in what format, the conclusions are the same: Dupont is responsible for manufacturing and selling a product harmful to humans. More egregious is the fact that Dupont continued to profit off of this product even though they knew it was dangerous.
The product in question is Teflon and similar products, such as waterproof flooring and Scotchguard. Imagine that we were to learn that microwave ovens caused cancer, but manufacturers of microwave ovens hid that information from the public and continued to sell the product because the profits were too significant to relinquish. That is what Dupont did with its chemical PFOA, also known as C-8.
Everyone associated with this film should be proud of their efforts. They took a complex story that took years from beginning to resolution and turned it into an entertaining expose of corporate greed and government malfeasance.
I first learned of this story after watching the documentary The Devil We Know, which I reviewed on this site. I highly recommend that you watch the documentary as a companion piece to this film. Both will leave you outraged.
Mark Ruffalo, who plays lawyer Robert Bilott, shows that you don’t have to be a superhero to accomplish great things. He gives an understated performance that lets the story evolve without trying to win an award through angry theatrics. The one outburst of indignation in the film comes not from Mark Ruffalo’s character but from Tim Robbins, who plays the head of the law firm that goes after Dupont. I couldn’t help while watching Tim Robbins in that scene that he wasn’t acting; he was showing how he felt about the facts uncovered not just in that scene but in the film as a whole.
Dark Waters tells an important story relevant to all of us. Even today, considering all that we know and have learned about the harmful effects of PFOAs, the Trump EPA refuses to set safety guidelines on how much PFOAs are safe in drinking water. The answer is that no amount of the chemical is safe, but the cost to cities and communities whose drinking water have been contaminated would be astronomical. So the EPAs solution is to avoid setting a guideline at all.
See the film and watch the documentary. You won’t be disappointed.