Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dark Waters (2019)

There seem to be some hyperspecific genres out there.  Within science fiction, you have movies about people on space stations where the rest of humanity perishes.  This isn’t to say that it’s formulaic.  We’re not talking about The Hallmark Channel, which has no end to movies about some woman who goes to a different town, finds her soul mate and leads a new life she never knew she wanted.  There is some variation beyond which holiday it is.

Take movies based on real life.  Even legal thrillers.  There are a few movies where the little guy takes on big corporations.  There’s usually a little guy.  It might whistleblower or someone who was screwed over by a big corporation.  They find a lawyer who is hesitant to take on the case, usually because it’s almost impossible to win.  In the end, there is victory, although it may or may not mean anything.

This isn’t to say the movie isn’t enjoyable.  Dark Waters is definitely watchable.  But, it does follow that same basic premise.

Wilbur Tennant has lost all but two of his cows.  He knows that it has something to do with DuPont.  The installation of a new dump site is too coincidental.  So, he comes to Rob Bilott, a lawyer who usually defends corporations like DuPont.  No lawyer in West Virginia will take the case.  That’s how embedded DuPont is in his area.

Bilott is hesitant at first.  His firm would like to have DuPont as a client.  Taking on the case would not make a good impression.  When Tennant drops off a box of VHS tapes, Bilott begins to see the light.  What follows is a decade-long legal battle to get DuPont to admit guilt.

And so he does, to an extent.  Tennant’s health deteriorates, but he does get to see some progress.  DuPont is forced to make payments to people.  When push comes to shove, though, they try backing out of an agreement.

You come to realize that life isn’t fair.  Lawyers are there to make things fair.  It’s supposed to be a way of leveling the playing field.  As they say, some people are more equal than others.  In this case, some people can afford more lawyers than others.

The movie does hit all the marks.  We even have a scene where Bilott is afraid to turn the ignition in his car.  (Maybe he’s been watching too many movies, himself.)  Granted, you’ll never look at Teflon the same way.  It’s a story that affects everyone.  I just don’t know that it stands out.

IMDb page

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