- Film & TV
- 04 Mar 20
Rage-filled drama portrays the human cost of American capitalism.
They say nothing sticks to Teflon, and in Todd Haynes’ corporate conspiracy drama Dark Waters, you’ll realise that not much sticks to evil corporations either.
Actor Mark Ruffalo brings his well-documented activist passion to the role of Robert Bilott, a lawyer who protects corporations from environmental claims. But when hardscrabble West Virginia farmer Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) alerts him to a case that hits too close to home, Bilott succumbs to his Midwestern sense of loyalty and visits Wilbur’s farm. There, he discovers a wasteland of dead cows and realises that one of his firm’s key clients, Dupont, has been poisoning not just animals, but humans, for generations, through everyday household items.
Pans, carpets and drinking water are all contaminated with mysterious “forever chemical” PFOA that causes countless diseases and deformities. Dupont knows this. They just don’t care. Teflon makes Dupont more money than the human lives are worth – enough money to bribe scientists, postpone court hearings and intimidate any lawyers out of challenging them.
Eschewing his usual sumptuous style, Haynes creates a drab, bleak atmosphere, coating the film in a grey wash that depletes even the country-scapes of any sense of fresh air or sunlight. This unrelenting sense of dread escalates as Bilbott obsessively persists with the case. Scenes of him being scared to start his car, or farmers screaming at helicopters flying overhead, demonstrate the paranoia that comes with realising capitalism more often protects the powerful than the vulnerable.