A review of the 2019 film “Dark Waters”

There is a sub-genre of drama movies that tell true-life stories of how powerful private corporations produced products that seriously harmed consumers and/or citizens, covering up the information and denying responsibility in the face of brave and tenacious individuals who sought to reveal the truth and hold them accountable. I think, for instance, of “Silkwood” (radiation in a plutonium processing plant), “Erin Brockovich” (chromium 6 in water) and “The Insider” (nicotine in cigarettes).

This film is an account of how a corporate defence laywer Robert Bilott used his legal skills to expose the mighty DuPont corporation for its use of a carcinogenic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the manufacture of Teflon. After a twenty-year legal battle, Bilott won three multimillion-dollar settlements against DuPont, forcing the company to settle the remaining more than 3,500 disease cases for $671 million.

It is a wonderful cast headed by Mark Ruffalo as Bilott, a role a million miles away from his casting as the Incredible Hulk in the Avengers series, with supporting roles filled by Anne Hathaway as Bilott’s wife and Tim Robbins as his boss. Furthermore it tells an enormously important story because PFOA and similar compounds are forever chemicals (chemicals that do not leave the blood stream and slowly accumulate) and everyone on the planet has been exposed to them in some way.

The problem is that cases of this kind typically take many years to research and prosecute and the evidence is voluminous and complex. This means that it is hard to make the narrative exciting but not all movies can be action-packed blockbusters. 


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