Dark Waters (Blu-ray Review)

For the people of Parkersville, West Virginia have long suffered in their small town.  A big company, DuPont, is a huge part of their small town.  DuPont helps keep the town up, funds parks and recreation for the town, and lets the residents know of the safe levels of chemicals in their drinking water.  What they don’t let people know is that they’re of course living the corporate greed dream and only saying the bare minimum.  Dark Waters chronicles Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) on his extremely long journey to bring justice to the people of Parkersville.  Read more on Todd Haynes’ newest drama below, and click the (paid) Amazon link below to get your copy via preorder!


Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) has just made partner at his law firm.  Sarah (Anne Hathaway) is busy getting used to life as a stay-at-home mom in their new home with their infant son.  She is busy on her own, but also weary about the newfound work of her husband becoming partner.  No more than a moment into his partnering with his firm is Bilott meeting Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) armed with a box of video tapes showing the loss of life on his farm in Parkersville.  He has lost an insane amount of livestock, mostly going crazy, having growths or rotting from the inside.  The kicker of it all – Robert works for the firm that represents DuPont in matters where people accuse them of contaminating the water wherever they do business.

Robert is torn.  His grandmother lives in Parkersville and is the reason Tennant has sought Robert in the first place.  When he goes to visit Grandma, she asks him point blank for help and he has to oblige.  Upon his first moments of questioning it all, Robert meets with chief DuPont attorney Phil Donnelly (Victor Garber) who offers to help shed some light on the situation in West Virginia.  All this while, Robert’s firm, Taft Law is still on good terms with DuPont.  When Robert uncovers some serious evidence against DuPont, the legal storm comes crashing down on him.

Paperwork becomes a mainstay in Bilott’s life.  DuPont believes if they bury him in paperwork, he will be stopped, scared or shied away from finding the truth.  He works closely with Tennant, establishing capable valid evidence. Years pass, Robert and Sarah have another son, and Robert becomes more paranoid as time passes, knowing that DuPont has placed the same dangerous chemicals in the homes of nearly everyone on Earth with their Teflon chemical coating.  When the case becomes bigger than Robert he calls on his boss, Tom Terp (Tim Robbins) and local lawyer Harry Deitzler (Bill Pullman) to make a big case against DuPont for the people of Parkersville.  Darlene Kiger (Mare Winningham) is a local woman who lost a husband and several friends to cancers and illnesses related to DuPont’s shady doings. She offers to put her name as the plaintiff in the case.

Paranoia plays a big part in the mix as well.  13 years pass by in the film, and people evolve.  Robert becomes more and more paranoid.  Even though she’s frustrated, Sarah sticks by her husband.  Wilbur Tennant and his family come under scrutiny, with DuPont ransacking the Tennant home looking for clues.  Kiger and her husband come under fire for giving the locals hope and having the process take so long.  Fingers get pointed, lawyers feel threatened, and DuPont keeps trying to deny claims.  It sounds like real life because it is! As Bilott states as he begins to catch on “They Knew!” (shout out to Aaron!)

Dark Waters is a story literally ripped from the headlines. Taken from a New York Times Expose – “The Lawyer that Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare”, the story is rife with the stuff of a good legal thriller.  The thing that makes the film peter out is the pacing.  This movie could be told in a style that makes you feel tense, or uneasy.  Instead, we get fine performances in an assembly line fashion.  Ruffalo gets a great scene where he’s allowed to get passionate.  Then he works in another good one with Hathaway taking the lead.  We get a scene for Robbins to shout at other actors with lots of passion. Bill Pullman and Mare Winningham both go into their roles with the quiet authority that makes them great character actors.  Those are all positives, but they’re not making a whole film.  The movie slowly works its way through the years.  We see life beats. The Bilott family never seems to have happy moments.  The whole film even in its justice prevails moments is somber.  There are glimpses of hope but not for long.  This is a film that can be savored by fans of slow burning legal dramas, but for those looking for a little bit more you may be disappointed. One thing I can say is that I was surprised to find that we have all been exposed to the same chemicals as the people of Parkersville. Everyone in the world has C8, the forever chemical in Teflon in their body.  That’s a sad thought.  A big company that was supposed to help us has done nothing but hurt us in the end.  That in itself makes the film worth a watch, and we should be thankful to the real life Robert Bilott for exposing DuPont and making them responsible.


  • Encoding: MPEG-4/AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Clarity/Detail: This is a great looking Blu-ray transfer. Clear, sharp and very detaied, the overall look of the film is a little dark and dreary. I believe that to be the intent, to make the whole experience that of a more thought provoking, somber tone.  The overall look of the film would be more of a cool blue, with flashes of golden hue from time to time. Clothing textures, hair, pores, even some not so discreet makeup all show up clearly.
  • Depth: The look of the film is very cool. You get the sense that a lot of the film was made to look cold intentionally, and in the depth department, spending time on farms, or in rural areas, you see a lot of great depth moments.  If you’re looking in outdated restaurant and farmhouses there’s an inherent grime to everything. It’s great production design and very apparent in the whole look of the film.
  • Black Levels: Given the color palette of the film, blacks look great overall. No crush or grey at all.
  • Color Reproduction: As mentioned above, colors aren’t very warm at all. The tone is overall blue with an occasional golden or brown moment.  This seems to be the intent, so I’ll say the color reproduction is accurate to the desires of the filmmaker.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look bluish/grey or pale for the most part. Again, this seems to be filmmaker’s intent, and in that instance, the flesh tones look great.
  • Noise/Artifacts: None to my eyes


  • Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DVS Dolby 2.0, French and Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
  • Dynamics: The mix doesn’t scream dynamic, but sonically it is! The sound design here is very full. While this isn’t a surround heavy mix, the main 3 channels and LFE are all used excellently.  The soundstage doesn’t feel cramped at all, and the few moments of surround activity are commendable too.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The score and a few of the more tense moments of the film have a very deep punch from the subwoofer. There were moments that had my floors vibrating and at least one moment that had artwork on my wall rattling as well.  This film is no slouch in the bass department surprisingly.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: There are mere moments of surround activity in this mix. Those moments are nice but are sometimes hard to find.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is perfectly placed in the center channel.


Dark Waters comes home in a Blu-ray combo pack with a DVD and Digital Code.  The slipcover is glossy and embossed. The extras are slim – 3 short featurettes that amount to about 20 minutes of info about the movie and the filmmakers’ interest in making the film. Not much unfortunately.

  • Uncovering Dark Waters (1080p, 5:38) – All involved discuss their surprise in reading about the story, and their desire to make the film.
  • The Cost of Being A Hero (1080p, 5:01) – About the real-life heroes who went to battle for the greater good against DuPont.
  • The Real People (1080p, 2:28) – The most interesting extra is also the shortest, of course, about the real people from Parkersville, and how they made their way into the film, creating some more realism for the picture.


Dark Waters has a lot going for it.  The story continues to be a shocking reminder of how blind we as consumers can be, and not by choice.  The movie itself is filled with good individual performances, and to see the real people from the town is a great touch.  It’s just a little frustrating to watch the film and with all the work that’s gone on in real life have the film play fairly boringly onscreen.  The movie is slow, sometimes loses its audience and is not the film that moviegoers would expect from Todd Haynes. From a legal thriller standpoint, there are no thrills.  From a more biographical standpoint, the film works.  Worth a look as a history lesson.

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