Sunday, December 30, 2007

There Will Be Blood

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.

8 comments:

grapestain said...

I imagine the reference to "No Country for Old Men" means there a great big killing scene in the end? I haven't seen either movie. I just know that there's lots of killing in one and assume there's lots of killing in "There Will Be Blood" based on the title. Is there some kind of trend towards Shakespearean tragedy this season? I mean, isn't that why Macbeth is terrific? Because of all the killing and deception? Please, your comments on the occasional literacy of film.

How did you find Daniel Day-Lewis' characterization compared to Bill the Butcher in "Gangs of New York?" It seems like a similar demeanor from your review, although perhaps this character is more of a psychopathic down-home protector of his stead, as opposed to a gross characterization of a ne'er-do-well at the turn of the century.

As for a pretty face...you are a weird.

aaron said...

if you dont think daniel day lewis is a good looking man you are a worthless virgin.

kat said...

Seriously, just spend one minute looking into those smokey eyes and tell me you wouldn't do whatever that man asked of you! The thing about Day-Lewis isn't so much that he's 'handsome' as that he's 'handsome and charismatic all at once' which makes him magical on screen.

I don't want to suggest that there's no violence in There Will Be Blood, but certainly, I would never characterize it as a 'violent film' the way I might No Country for Old Men.

Just go see it. It's actually kind of slow and lyrical. And fucking awesome.

aaron said...

saw this last night + it is unbelievable. absolutely incredible movie. there is a sense of unease that pervades the entire film, + i think part of this is due to some remarkable visual play including the subtle use of a wide angle throughout the film that distorts everything just slightly. watch carefully: not a single parallel line in the entire film! fucked!

alex said...

the merits of the film are plenty, escpecially the score and sound design (bang on, aaron). but I don't think PT can be given too much credit for directing. Luckily, he is wise enough to give Lewis the leeway he deserves. and Dano holds up incredibly well, considering the weight of his role. not enough being said about him (take notes Shia labeouf).

the rub for me, is that not enough bg is given to explain Lewis' drive in the film, beyond something genetic. why try so hard, and risk so much? Anderson is a fan of no easy answers, and ambiguity in past work, but Dano's Sunday explains his pious behavior as the son of a poor farmer. The only clue we get with Lewis, is the opening scene, where perhaps isolated madness seeps in while chipping at rocks.

i guess we climb mountains because they are there?

very glad we're returning to the 70's with the benefit of CGI. but 'no country' wins the battle this year, as a more complete effort.

Jason said...

i couldn't watch a two and half hour movie about anything

aaron said...

not even about america's burgeoning obsession with capitalism + power?!

aaron said...

alex, i definitely think a large degree of PT anderson's success can be attributed to the great people he surrounds himself with, but he should be credited for knowing how much to hand over to those in front of + behind the camera. i think that's a big part of what being a great director is about. but you can't deny the masterful work in some of the pure direction, either. the extended takes of daniel day-lewis watching the derrick burn, covered in oil, hands on his knees; the scene of day-lewis + o'connor on the beach in california when their banal conversation suddenly fills you with horror; or the final, perfect shot + cut to black. those are moments that i think reveal PT anderson's rarified talent.