Dark Waters (2019)


Robert (Mark Ruffalo) is a corporate lawyer whose firm defends large chemical companies. At the beginning of the film, he is approached by farmer Wilbur (Bill Camp) from his grandmother’s birthplace, who is certain that a large company is secretly storing toxic chemicals near his property. As a result, Wilbur’s cows become sick and violent and eventually die. Wilbur leads Robert to a stream where cows drink water, where the stones have turned unnaturally white, and to a meadow that has become a graveyard for farm animals. Robert decides to uncover a dark secret and in the process risks everything – his future, his family, and even his own life…

Films like this are not few and far between. They are based on true or fictional stories, in which an idealistic lawyer in search of justice for ordinary people chooses an almost invincible opponent. After that, there are endless hours digging through papers in a dark office, private life becomes non-existent, and the case becomes a priority over family. At the trial, an ace is pulled from the sleeve, information that the opponents did not even think could be obtained, the truth is revealed, ordinary people do not believe that justice has won, and big companies, as always, have their aces up their sleeves.

One of the reasons I watched this film with great attention is that there are rare cases in real life when an individual initiates a lawsuit against a large company, which always has the money to hire experts, the best lawyers, and to deliberately prolong the process for several years. In the movie Dark Waters, that process has been going on for two decades and it’s not over yet. The authors very convincingly present this black hole of time, in which it takes years to find some evidence or to go through endless documentation, so we are quite convinced of Robert’s overload with the case, but also his persistence not to give up.

Dark Waters is based on decades of very well-documented cases, internal trials and cases that have discovered and proven long-term health consequences. I believe you will be outraged by the decades of corporate arrogance, greed, self-regulation, social irresponsibility, legal maneuvering and wall-building that one tenacious lawyer tried to tear down. Among other things, this film will remind us that we are not really protected by systems and institutions, at least not as much as we think we are.

Another reason to watch is certainly the believable performance of Marko Rafal, one of the film’s producers, whose character is neither idealistic, nor cynical, nor in pursuit of money, but just does what he thinks needs to be done. As Wilbur and the other townspeople lose hope that anything can be done and their health deteriorates, Robert unravels the puzzle piece by piece and in the process becomes sick, not from the chemicals, but from the stress. The character of his wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway) is very well written, as the right balance between support and quiet anger is found. As for his boss Tom Terp (Tim Robbins), I’m not sure what his motives were for supporting Robert, especially when the process started taking more and more money and time.

I will certainly highlight the segment of the story that takes place alongside the main story. In addition to the process scenes, we also follow some form of life destruction or soul freezing to anyone involved in this case. Emphasizing the point is achieved by bringing gray, heavy cinematography and a sad atmosphere to almost every location. While watching the film and in the epilogue, we learn information that will not leave us in a very good mood, and I believe that this is the main point of the film – the authors use the opportunity to open our eyes, to pay tribute to the victims, but also to literally lay the blame at the feet of the perpetrators.