Mark Ruffalo leads emotional, but ponderous, legal drama

Director Todd Haynes’ earnest, engaging courtroom drama is an exercise in legal tedium. It’s a solid effort, but because the film is so meticulously grounded, viewer attention may wander.

“Dark Waters” is based in part on a 2016 New York Times Magazine article entitled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” The story is told exclusively from the perspective of lawyer Rob Bilott (played by Mark Ruffalo). A gifted Cincinnati attorney, Bilott led the charge against DuPont in a complex litigation involving water contamination in Parkersburg, West Virginia. In real life, his efforts in court against DuPont continue.

In the movie, Bilott is inspired to take up the cause when he’s visited at his big-city law firm by angry and disagreeable farmer Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp). Tennant has lost nearly all his livestock to a mysterious disease, documenting the progression on video. Initially, Bilott thinks he can appease the farmer by contacting DuPont, a potential firm client, and gathering comforting information from an EPA study. However, as he digs into the matter, Bilott discovers that DuPont is hiding something.

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