Everyone loves an underdog story, to see an unlikely winner actually win. And Hollywood has produced countless movies about surprising and inspiring triumphs, almost all of which pay off with a climatic victory that uplifts audiences.
But director Todd Haynes approached the drama DARK WATERS differently. "This is real life — this is how it happens. There’s no silver bullet to a story like this," he told AMC in a one-on-one interview.
DARK WATERS is a shocking true story that follows corporate defense attorney Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) as he investigates DuPont and its "non-hazardous" landfill near a small family farm where nearly 200 cows have mysteriously died. As he digs through millions of DuPont's internal documents, he uncovers a dark secret that connects the company to birth defects, diseases and deaths in an entire community that borders the Ohio River.
(Mark Ruffalo with the real Robert Bilott)
For 20 years, Bilott fights for the truth, and at the end of DARK WATERS, he's still fighting, which is why you won't see any big speeches or chest pounding in the drama. "We just knew that was not honest," Haynes said.
Instead, Haynes and his team build an "emotional suspense" over the movie's runtime. "You retrigger a kind of innocence in the viewer, to really walk through a process. By paying very close attention to process, you enter the present tense of the medium … You’re linked to the limited vision of the characters who are discovering what these stories are."
We see what Bilott sees, even when his colleagues (Tim Robbins as Tom Terp above) and wife (Anne Hathaway) refuse to. But at times, Haynes keeps us at arm's length from the guarded character. "You have to sort of lose him at times, and then refind him," Haynes explained. "He gets buried alive by the discovery that he finally shakes loose from DuPont — which they never thought a single individual would ever be capable or a law firm would finance the time it would take for an individual to go through all of that."
Of course, there are small victories in DARK WATERS along the way, to remind us there is hope and we can "take on systems of power and corruption one fight at a time."
"When you watch what people can do, and you watch how people can change their minds and their assumptions about how the world works, and stand up and fight… that’s really where change occurs." Hear more from Todd Haynes, Mark Ruffalo and the real Robert Bilott in our exclusive interview below.
Get your tickets to DARK WATERS at an AMC near you today.