Mark Ruffalo plays an attorney who takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company in the trailer for Todd Haynes' Dark Waters. A fairly late entry in this year's awards season derby, Dark Waters was only just scheduled for a limited release in November a few weeks ago. Then again, considering it's based on a true story and features Haynes directing a cast that includes Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, and The Good Place's William Jackson Harper, it's no surprise that Focus Features ultimately decided to give the film an Oscar push.
Adapted from Nathaniel Rich's 2016 New York Times Magazine article, "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare", by writers Matthew Michael Carnahan (Deepwater Horizon) and Mario Correa (Electoral Dysfunction), the film went under the title Dry Run prior to the start of production. As it happens, Dark Waters is the second drama involving the du Ponts that Ruffalo's starred in after Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher in 2014. That film examined John du Pont's relationship with Olympic wrestling champions Dave and Mark Schultz, which culminated with du Pont shooting and killing Dave.
By comparison, Dark Waters is a legal drama about real-life corporate defense attorney Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) and how he uncovered the connection between a string of deaths and the DuPont chemical company, exposing a long history of their pollution in the process. With just over two months to go before the film hits theaters, Focus Features is getting its marketing campaign underway, and has released the first trailer online. Check it out below, along with the movie's poster.
The trailer offers a broad, but effective outline of the film's story, showing how Bilott stumbles upon a massive corporate coverup after agreeing to take what seemed like a simple case for a small-time Ohio cow farmer (Bill Camp). It strikes a pretty intense and dramatic tone overall, especially as Bilott starts to realize that he's not only endangered his career, but even his family and his own personal safety by taking on a massively powerful corporation. Naturally, the trailer plays up Dark Waters' connection to acclaimed investigation dramas like The Post and the Best Picture-winning Spotlight, both of which were also co-produced by Participant Media. Altogether, the film marks a change of pace for Haynes, who's better known for making subversive LGBTQ period dramas like Carol, Velvet Goldmine, and Far From Heaven.
It will be interesting to see how Dark Waters fares this awards season, having already skipped over this year's big film festivals in Venice and Toronto. The drama may have its work cut out for it, having to open against the festival hit A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood over the 2019 pre-Thanksgiving weekend, in addition to offerings like Frozen II and 21 Bridges. Still, the Academy loves a good underdog story - especially one that takes the form of a David vs. Goliath showdown between a crusading attorney and a wicked corporate giant - so it's best to not count Dark Waters out this early in the game.
Source: Focus Features
- Dark Waters (2019) release date: Nov 22, 2019