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Sunday, 13 July 2008

There Will Be Blood, 2007 - DVD Review

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Martin Stringer
Running Time: 158 Minutes

Score: 9/10

Here's another review. This one sent in by Steven (Could you let me know where in the World you are?). I've still got to watch this one. I can't wait. On with the Review.

An awe inspiring epic from the mind of Paul Thomas Anderson, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

For the longest time I’ve wondered about There Will Be Blood. Ever since It garnered 8 Academy Award Nominations, and lost a majority of them to No Country for Old Men, (A film which I hold dear to my heart) I became curious. I wanted to see this elusive film. Unfortunately I missed all of the screenings locally, so I had to wait till it came out on DVD. Unfortunately, when it did, I was knee deep in my own performances that I didn’t have time to search for it. 7 Months have passed since the movie came out in theatres, and finally I’ve been able to thoroughly view Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterful film, and I can finally say that it lives up to most of the hype. Most of it anyway.

There Will Be Blood follows the story of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an aspiring oil tycoon. It demonstrates his rise to power, and his penultimate destiny as a sinner. The film has a vast scope in that it doesn’t hold a particular biasedness on any of it’s characters. Daniel, his son, his brother Henry, and Eli Sunday (a wonderful Paul Dano) are all held accountable for their actions, and while the story may favor Daniel, it ultimately lets you make up your own mind about what sort of person you think he is. The general perception is that he is nothing but a greedy, but wise con and that he deserves to die alone. However some people have connected with Daniel, and realize that he is only misunderstood. This is the power of Paul Thomas Anderson’s directing, he is fully aware of how his characters are terrible, terrible people, but he casts them in no sort of shadow that would make you believe. It doesn’t force it upon you like a typical film sets up a “Good vs. Bad” scenario. It’s the strong characters that help reaffirm this decision. I’ll get right down to it. Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in this film is the best performance by a lead actor that I have seen out of the past few decades. There are few actors that can truly become another person like Daniel can. He truly is a greedy son of a bitch, and the entire film is his playground. He lies, cheats, backstabs to get his way, and its done in a fantastically cynical way. He knows what he’s doing is terrible, but he doesn’t care who stands in his way. He has no regard for anyone in his plans, and they are only pawns to assist him to get what he wants. Even if the film doesn’t appeal to you, I urge you to see There Will Be Blood if only for Day-Lewis’ performance. The Oscar was well deserved.

Paul Dano (of Little Miss Sunshine fame) also takes a surprising, but notable turn as Eli Sunday, the false prophet/healer that sells Daniel the initial plot of land that begins the film. He is fully confident in his abilities to spread the gospel of his church, and attempts to help Daniel in a daunting scene. Dano manages to hold his own against the powerful Day-Lews, and gives a good performance.

The music is also fantastic, almost eerily, juxtaposing every grim and dark image with a beautiful exposition of orchestration. It works to great effect, as it builds tension, and gives the entire film this eerie, “You know how this is going to end” tone. The music helps build all the way to the films ending, which most people find terrible and ill fitting for the character, I find it a sweeping end to the saga of Daniel Plainview.

The film isn’t perfect however. There are quite a few filler scenes with Daniel simply speaking and toying with certain characters. However this doesn’t detract majorly from the film, I feel that some of these scenes could have been cut to help brisk the pace of the nearly 3 hour film. All of these scenes serve to draw Plainview out more, which is absolutely necessary, but a few of them tend to drag. I feel they could have shortened it to a brisk 2 hours, which would not only gain more viewers, but it would reach a wider audience.

Overall, this film is a great example of Modern American Filmmaking at its finest. It ranks up there with No Country for Old Men, The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and 3:10 to Yuma, as a return to the great western genre that we seem to be looking towards again.