First Hit: An excellent portrayal of corporate malfeasance and arrogance, finally getting its comeuppance.
Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate attorney, is a thorough pragmatic defender of corporations. He's just made partner in his firm and is a powerful asset to the company because he's so good at his work.
During an important meeting, he's interrupted by Wilber Tennent (Bill Camp) and friend who come from a farm in Parkersburg, West Virginia. They come to see Bilott because Roberts's grandmother, "Grammy," is a friend of Tennent.
They hand Bilott a box full of videotapes explaining that no local Parkersburg lawyer will help them with the problem of their cattle dying. They believe the animals are dying because the town's largest employer, Dupont, is polluting the water with chemicals from their facility.
Bilott tries to deter Tennent and not get involved, but Tennent's plea knags at him, so he visits his Grammy, verifies she knows Tennent and then drives to Tennent's farm. When Wilbur shows him his field full of buried cows, "190 of them," he realizes there is a problem.
Although Bilott's firm doesn't have Dupont as a corporate client, they are reluctant to take on a nonpaying client that is going to end up suing Dupont as it will hurt their reputation with their own corporate clients.
However, Tom Terp (Tim Robbins), Bilott's boss, supports Robert continuing his investigation even though his client cannot pay. There is a great scene when all the partners convene to hear and discuss Bilott's work.
Finally, Dupont sends over all the discovery information that Bilott had requested, and it is massive. Hundreds of boxes of memos, reports, and other documentation. Being a team of one, dutifully Robert sits down on the floor and begins categorizing each document by year and subject. This is a great scene because it cements Robert's commitment to do the right thing no matter what it takes.
His years of research comes up with proof that Dupont knew that they were poisoning people and animals through the creation, use of, and byproducts from POFA (C8), a chemical creation used in Teflon© the non-stick coating that everyone was using. C8 is one of those chemicals that cannot be broken down by nature, let alone the human body and therefore it stays in the body and slowly causes various types of cancer.
The film takes us through this story as it develops over the years of difficult lonely hard work on Bilott's part. The filmmakers did a great job of showing the passage of time by giving the audience quick glimpse of his three boys growing up in front of him. He barely interacts with them because he's so clearly focused on this one case, this man is all in.
In the meantime, because of the court's slow processes, Dupont's putting roadblocks at every turn, and the slowness of a medical testing company that was reviewing, over sixty thousand blood tests, people were continuing to be poisoned and die from being exposed to C8.
We watch as the stress of doing the right thing for his client requires him to take reductions in pay because he's spending all his time on this case that has no paying client. We watch him feel the pain while watching his clients deteriorate because of the poison.
His wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway) tries to keep their family together, showing undying support, even as she sees the deterioration of her husband because of the deeply committed compassion to see this lawsuit through for the people who are being harmed.
One thing the film made sure of was the darkness of this subject. Every scene is dark in color or filled with gray skies.
Ruffalo was excellent as the committed attorney who gave up almost everything, including his life, to find and fight for the truth. Hathaway was superb as his supportive wife attempting to keep their family together while Robert fights for the truth. Robbins was influential as Bilott's boss and senior managing partner of their law firm, showing support for Robert on this long trail to truth. Camp was terrific, and the driven farmer and rancher who committed his life to making sure Dupont was charged for their crimes against his community. Victor Garber, as Phil Donnelly, a senior executive in Dupont, was supreme in his portrayal of being the mouthpiece of corporate malfeasance. Mare Winningham, as Darlene Kiger, a Parkersburg resident, was fantastic. It was lovely to see her on the screen again. Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan wrote a powerfully detailed script. Todd Haynes did a great job of creating the feel corporate malfeasance and the difficulty of making wealthy companies pay for their crimes against humanity.
Overall: This is an excellent story about the power of perseverance.