Movie Review: Dark Waters


If any aspiring writer of fiction approached any literary agent with story like the movie “Dark Waters”, most would say that the entire story is absurd, because it would be impossible for any large company to knowingly poison the population of a town or city for 40 years for profit. Someone in the company would come forward and report something like this. People are dying, getting cancer, there are birth defects, large numbers of farm animals are dying. How can that many executives turn a blind eye to mass murder for profit? There is no way this could happen. That many educated executives could never be that cruel to so many people for so long. How could they rationalize causing serious health problems to other people and then lie about it, for profit? How could they sleep at night, knowing what they are doing to the health of so many people? Nobody would ever believe a story like this. So much for fiction.

The real world has produced a company like PG&E that knowingly poisoned the town of Hinkley California from 1952-1966 by dumping 370 million gallons of chromium tainted wastewater; the subject of the movie “Erin Brockovich”, released in 2000. In April 2014 the Governor of Michigan changed the water source for Flint Michigan to the Flint river and did not care that he was poisoning the water to Flint with lead. This criminal outrage went on for years, before it was finally stopped.

The subject of the new movie “Dark Water” is about Dupont, who “knowingly”, despite their own medial research dumped a chemical called C8, also known as Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA to make a product called Teflon, invented in 1961, on the residents of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Like all products that involved chemical compounds, there is waste output involved and the problem always is, where to dump it? Dupont only cared that it was making over 1 billion dollars a year manufacturing Teflon, not about its own research that proved the extreme health hazard the chemical C8 – that represents 8 molecules of Carbon, was causing to thousands of people.

Dark Waters is both hard to watch and almost impossible to believe even happened because the crime is so huge. The story of this film is about a corporate lawyer, Robert Bilott who devoted almost his entire legal career through years of great hardship to force Dupont to be accountable for the decades of criminal outrage they perpetrated on thousands of people. Dark Waters is both a legal and human drama, with some complex legal judgments and hundreds of thousands of documents that Billot processed, looking for the trail of evidence he needed to sue Dupont in Civil court. Dark Waters also stars Anne Hathaway as Billot’s wife who supports him through years of stress, and Billot’s many health issues caused by this landmark case. In the end, Dupont was held accountable, eventually settling on a judgement of 670 million dollars, which for anyone who sees this great movie would agree was not nearly enough, when you consider the crime of knowingly poisoning so many human beings for 40 years. One of the most significant moments in this movie for me came at the end, where near the closing credits it was announced the 99% of the world’s population contain some traces of C8. Another memorable scene involves a young teen aged girl who smiles at Robert Bilott, showing her black teeth caused by the dangerous chemicals she ingested.

The acting in Dark Waters, including Bill Pullman, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Mark Rufalo who plays Robert Bilott and Anne Hathaway is outstanding and this movie should receive and Oscar nomination for best picture. I agree with the high critical acclaim for this movie and highly recommend it as one of the best films of 2019.,

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