Paul Thomas Anderson | 2007 | 158 min | USA
When I took my seat last night at the advance screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, There Will Be Blood, I didn’t know anything about it other than what the trailer gives away – which is next to nothing. I knew Daniel Day-Lewis starred in it, and I knew he was an oil man with a sinister and menacing demeanour. That’s it.
Pretty much, that’s all you need to know going into this two and a half hour epic, a deep and disturbing character study set against the backdrop of the western frontier as it transforms from a place of homesteaders and cowboys into a cold and industrialized expanse, waiting for the right man to come along and harness the wealth it has to offer.
Without giving anything away about the film, here are three reasons to see it, even if you aren’t a fan of Anderson’s films (and really, why wouldn’t you be?), because while there are parallels of theme and tone, it is actually quite a departure from his previous work.
First: Daniel Day-Lewis. He acts the living hell out of this role, transforming his voice, his posture, adding a calculating glint in his eye and creating a perfect image of a man whose sheer force of will and unrelenting drive will chill you to the bone. Day-Lewis is one of those great character actors who’s cursed with a pretty face. Maybe it makes him work twice as hard to prove himself. Either way, I thank him for this, perhaps the most show-stoppingly incredible performance of the year. Paul Dano (the sullen older brother from Little Miss Sunshine) as the creepy, cherub-faced preacher is no slouch either.
Second: The soundtrack. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood has never done better work. His creepy, avant-garde orchestral score made the tiny hairs on my arms stand on end for 158 minutes. It’s haunting, beautiful, and fits the tone of the film perfectly. In a way, it reminded me of Damon Albarn's work on the score for 1999's highly enjoyable tale of cannibalism during the time of the Mexican-American war, Ravenous, except way better. Both those guys should quit their stupid bands and do this full time.
Third: The ending. Along with No Country for Old Men, this film is ushering in a new era – not since the 1970s has mainstream American film been able to deliver such satisfying finales. Thank god for these brave soldiers who are willing to step inches outside of the usual script writing formula to surprise, delight and confound the movie going public just a tiny bit.