By Nathaniel Rich
It’s an odd and somewhat terrifying world in which screenwriters do a better job of putting forth truth than government officials (not to mention certain members of the “news” media). But it seems that’s the world we’re living in. Of course, I suppose this is the way it’s always been … when people in powerful positions start deferring to tyrants, it is left to artists to keep the candle of truth and morality burning.
There’s a moment towards the middle of “Dark Waters” when Mark Ruffalo’s Rob Bilott asks the partners at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, a firm that makes its bread and butter defending large chemical companies, to embark upon a class action suit against DuPont. After an unfortunate, if unsurprisingly, negative reaction from his colleagues, one of Bilott’s partners (Tim Robbins’ Tom Terp) stands up.
“Has anyone even read the evidence this man has collected? The willful negligence, the corruption? Read it! And then tell me we should be sitting on our asses.”
It’s a terrific moment. And it underscores what Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan have done here. They’ve laid out the evidence. Clearly. Compellingly. Emotionally. They’ve built a procedural that draws you along and makes you feel the anger and frustration of Tom Terp and Rob Bilott, the anger and frustration of people who find their colleagues and friends all too willing to help tyrants bury truth in darkness. In doing so, Correa and Carnahan have not only created a compelling piece of art, but they’ve also done something almost as important in dark times like these. They’ve reminded us that truth matters. And that in moments like this, we all have a responsibility to use the means at our disposal to keep its candle burning.
Josh Singer is the Oscar-winning co-screenwriter of “Spotlight.”