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"Dark Waters" - Film Review

by Emilia Ippolito

If you are interested in whistle blowers and investigative journalism, this is a fine film on the efforts of a brilliant corporate lawyer, Rob Bilott, to bring down one of the largest and most powerful corporate name in biochemicals on the planet : DuPont.


The American company is the original producer of Teflon, main component of about 90% of anything we use : ranging from clothing to the now infamous Teflon cooking pans, Teflon is a highly poisonous chemical construct, put together in labs. This cancerous substance is composed of an unbreakable chain of four atoms of Carbon: DuPont could not miss a precious opportunity to ensure patent and start producing pretty much anything, including weapons and war machines. One attribute links them all: nearly unbreakable durability

Like any chemical, this lethal product is very difficult to dispose of: the company based in Ohio purchased land around the polluted areas whose waters allegedly still contain too high concentrations of C4. Locals started manifesting all sorts of tumours and deformed babies were born in the surroundings - one of the actual victim of this industrial horror, Buck, we get to see in a cameo appearance in the movie. The film is based on an article published by The New York Time Magazine’s article : ‘The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s worst nightmare’; the good script by Nathaniel Rich stays close to reality, avoiding sentimentalism

The first whistle blower is a disgruntled farmer, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), who refuses to abandon his land, ending up bankrupt and with a nasty cancer. One day in 1975 he decides to call on his former neighbour’s nephew: Rob Billot (Mark Ruffalo), who has just been promoted to partner at Tafts Law, a well renowned law cabinet in Cincinnati. At first reluctant, then moved by the semi illiterate but wise farmer, Billot starts falling into the spiralling investigation which finally convinces him and his boss Tom Terp (excellent Tim Robbins) to accept the case. Ironically, DuPont was a potential client of Taft.

The extenuating case - ongoing for the past 35 years and not as yet concluded - takes over Billot’s family, his wife Sarah (Anne Heathway) and their three children, dominating their life and imposing at times financial sacrifices. Ups, downs, oscillating support from friends, colleagues, relations, local and national public opinion and press, have driven the Billots’ life as long as they can remember

Does justice finally triumph? Well, answering this question would be a major spoiler : one more reason to watch this intriguing portrait of current affairs on big screen !

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