Dark Waters Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is an obscurely fat man in a boring suit who works as a lawyer for a large law firm in Ohio: he defends large corporations in court. Robert is in good standing with his boss Tom Turp (Tim Robbins), and he is eventually made a partner in the company – now, apparently, he is waiting for a good career and quiet family happiness with his wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway) and a recently born son.

At some point, the Tennant brothers – Wilbur (Billy Camp) and Jim – come to the company’s office. They are farmers from the town of Parkersburg, West Virginia, where Robert’s grandmother lives. Wilbur says he needs a lawyer to represent him in a lawsuit against DuPont, the largest chemical company: according to Wilbur, upriver from his farm at DuPont there is a landfill from which some rubbish enters the water, causing all of Wilbur’s cows to die.

At first, Robert categorically refuses: he works only with legal entities, he defends large companies, including the same DuPont, and he does not want to represent the farmer in court. However, Wilbur says that his grandmother, whom he knows, advised him to contact Bilott, and in addition, he hands Robert a whole box of video cassettes, which, according to him, capture everything that began to happen to his household after DuPont made a dump in those parts.

Robert unsuccessfully tries to reach Alma’s grandmother, and then nevertheless goes to Parkersburg to meet his grandmother and visit Wilbur’s property. And there, on the spot, Robert saw with his own eyes what Wilbur was talking about.

However, then Bilott considered that there was just some kind of bungling of local representatives of the company. When filing the first lawsuit against DuPont, he even maintained quite friendly relations with the company’s chief lawyer (Victor Gerber) for some time, but the longer Robert did this, the clearer it became for him that DuPont was guilty of absolutely monstrous crimes against the health and even lives of Americans.


The plot of this film is based on a very sensational article by journalist Nathaniel Rich in the New York Times called “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” – here is the original article, here is the translation on Habré.

The script was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa, Mark Ruffalo was a noticeable driving force behind the project (I don’t know why the hell his last name is spelled “Ruffalo” in United States for some reason, but they call Sandra Bullock “Bullock” for some reason, so the balance , one might say, at least somehow, but achieved), who played the main role in the film and acted as a producer. The film was directed by the experienced director Tonn Hines, whose filmography includes the famous films Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There and Carol.

Social dramas about how one small – in terms of status – man managed to sue a giant corporation are always very popular, especially if they are based on real events. And then there is the famous scandal with the DuPont company and the fact that they have been doing for years with perfluorooctanoic acid, which must be disposed of with the strictest precautions, and they stupidly poured tons of it into the river, and the company was well aware of what terrible consequences such actions can lead to, but this was all ignored, and information about the existing danger to health was carefully concealed.

And here, of course, there was an interesting story with lawyer Robert Bilott, who, it seems, all his life stood guard over the interests of large corporations and excused them in courts, including the DuPont company, but then, when Robert saw with his own eyes what exactly in Dupont they get up and what it all leads to, he became obsessed with the idea of ​​making them answer for their deeds, although he perfectly understood what forces would oppose him, and that all this could easily ruin his career.

But he saw how vile and hypocritical everything was in this case: in the ongoing “expertise” on the death of all the cows of Wilbur Tennant, it was written that, they say, the cows died due to the improper care of the farmer himself, while the “experts” completely ignored terrible signs of obvious poisoning in animals (cancerous tumors, black teeth), the company was covered at all levels, so Bilott had very little chance of getting justice, but he got involved in this story, gave her twenty years of his life, and I must say that this story is still not over: the courts for multiple claims of individuals whose health has suffered from the actions of the company continue and will continue.

And there, at the end of the film, terrible figures are given that PFOA (the same perfluorooctanoic acid) is found in the bodies of almost ALL Americans – in one concentration or another. Bilott’s investigation originally alleges that DuPont mishandled PFOA, which poisoned the residents of an entire West Virginia city and part of its county, but this acid was used in the manufacture of many things, most notably Teflon non-stick coating, which in including covering frying pans and pots – and this is the history of not only all of America, but of the whole world. This should not be taken as a call to immediately throw away all Teflon-coated pans and pots, because there have been certain changes with this production after a series of scandals, but consumers in any case should understand what is happening and assess the risks themselves.

But I kind of went to the side of the real story, meanwhile, we are talking primarily about the film, so let’s get back to the film. All this was filmed in a rather restrained manner, and the picture itself is sustained in faded colors, which, as it were, should emphasize the fact that in all these endless court hearings, on the one hand, there was nothing so exciting and interesting, but the most important thing in the film is the investigation Robert and his role in the fact that the American society finally found out what the DuPont company was doing, whose owners did not particularly pay attention to the fact that they, in fact, poisoned the whole city with the district, and a little bit of the whole of America .

Mark Ruffalo is brilliant as Robert Bilott. But he had a very difficult task ahead of him. A boring man in a boring suit makes some kind of career in a boring law office. And then he suddenly becomes obsessed with the story of DuPont and the city of Parkersburg and actually spends most of his active conscious life suing this company. Moreover, the real Bilott won due to his incredible performance and really obsession: DuPont, when Robert forced them to provide him with documents in court, filled him up with tons of all kinds of paper garbage in the expectation that Bilott simply could not shovel it all, and Robert, realizing that only there he could find something, he managed to study it all and eventually discovered the very diamonds (documents with evidence) hidden in the trash that allowed him to successfully smash the company in numerous courts.

Try to show in an interesting way how a lawyer endlessly digs through tons of documents, but the film crew and Mark Ruffalo succeeded! Bilott here is a living person with all his reflections. Robert’s obsession with this case does not raise any questions: he was absolutely shocked by what he saw with his own eyes, and it was quite clear to him that DuPont should be held accountable for what they had done and that other than him should take care of this case. , in general, there was no one: the company bought everyone in the bud, and it was completely useless to approach Robert with a bribe, for him it was a matter of principle.

The real feat of the real Robert Bilott was not only that he went against the most powerful corporation. First of all, he needed to get evidence, and for this he had to study downright tons of papers. And Rich’s article goes into great detail about how much time and effort Bilott had to spend on this, and the film shows it well: Ruffalo’s character, with a somewhat guilty expression on his face, rummages through these endless papers even during parties at his house.

In addition to Mark Ruffalo, several other interesting actors play here. Robert’s wife Sarah is played by Anne Hathaway, and at first, to be honest, it was not very clear to me why she was invited to this role at all, because she really had nothing to play, but in the second half of the film she had three vivid emotional episodes and their Anne played very well.

Tim Robbins (not seen in a while) played Tom Turp, director of the law firm where Bilott works. He did a great job even though it was a small part. And there, despite the fact that this film has certain movie clichés, with the behavior of Tom, who supports Robert in his fight against Dupont, there were just no questions: Terp himself was directly interested in Bilott suing DuPont, because it did great publicity for his firm. (And the New York Times article also mentioned this.)

Bill Pullman played a small but striking role here as Harry Deitzler’s lawyer. I’m not a big fan of Pullman at all, but I really liked him here.

What didn’t you like? Those very specific clichés that I mentioned above. Well, the director could not resist not using them – to escalate tension. This was especially intrusive in the episode where Robert gets into the car and is afraid to start it – they say, what if DuPont planted a bomb in his car? Somehow it looked quite strange and looked obviously superfluous. And so the story, in my opinion, is quite exciting, why use such cheap tricks?

In general, I liked it. First, because of its social significance, hundreds of thousands of people who have seen this film will definitely read the New York Times article if they haven’t read it before. Secondly, the picture is well staged and does not look boring and uninteresting at all, on the contrary, the action is downright exciting. And, thirdly, she is well played. Mark Ruffalo is a bright actor, and all his roles are at least good ones. Here he played just fine, especially considering who he needed to portray – a lawyer, constantly delving into the papers.

By the way, interestingly, in the good film “Foxcatcher” Mark Ruffalo played the athlete Mark Schultz, who coaches the freestyle wrestling team owned by John DuPont – the heir to the DuPont empire, with which Mark Ruffalo’s character is suing in this film.

Of course, several real participants in these events appeared in the picture in small cameos, including Robert and Sarah Bilott themselves: here they are among the guests at the reception.

Dark Waters movie review

Director: Tonn Hynes Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Pullman, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, William Jackson Harper, Louisa Krause, Kevin Crowley

Drama, USA, 2019, 126 min.

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