Jan 2008 15

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film is a masterpiece for the first 2/3 of the film but drags intermittently between some amazing scenes the rest of the way out, leaving it falling short of being the masterpiece it almost was.
We start off in 1898 in a sun bleached desert watching Daniel Plainview, Daniel Day Lewis in a fantastic portrayal or this menacing “Oil Man”, as he mines alone in a hole, searching for anything to help him get by. Cut forward to 1901 and Plainview is now mining for oil with a small team of men and finding moderate success after an accident in the well though, the victim’s son is left orphaned with the crew and Daniel takes the boy, H.W., under his wing as his son. We jump again to 1911 and this is where the film really gets rolling. Plainview success has grown considerably and he can guarantee a well up and running faster than any other prospectors, with his own team, run by him, making him the ideal “Oil Man” for any job. Daniel is a great salesman and isn’t afraid to walk out on a deal that doesn’t seem right for him. He isn’t desperate, he is in control, and he goes after exactly what he wants.
After the striking of his most recent well, Plainview is visited by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), who tells him of his family ranch where “the oil seeps through the ground.” On Plainview‘s visit he decides to take the risk on the land and begins to buy up all the surrounding lots with a dream of drilling and pipelining the oil out to the sea and with this our main story begins.
I have shared far more plot then normal but there is a lot of set up to the story we have come to see. The film is epic and follows Plainview over the course of nearly 30 years. The film is just marvelous through all the described proceedings and for all of the material on the Sunday ranch, it’s when Henry (played great by Henry Brands) shows up that the film begins to drag with a sub plot that is mostly unnecessary. The events surrounding Henry are mostly to show how evil Daniel can be, but I was left wanting to see Daniel dealing with business, and the scenes with Henry that are dealing with business are fantastic, rather than this drifter. If a couple of scenes might have been truncated a bit it could have worked better, but we are left with a bit too bloated sub-plot that pulled me out of the film for just a moment.
This portion of the film was also the most absent of music which I think hurt it as well since Johnny Greenwood’s score is magnificent. The score sucks you in and takes along for the ride for most of the film and I found that the scenes that rubbed me the wrong way I don’t remember really having any music over them. Though, the score is fantastic and brings energy to the film through out and maybe that is all those occasional dragging scenes needed was a bit of this fantastic score to carry us through. I hope Greenwood gets to tackle more scores to go along with his accomplished career with Radiohead.
The supporting cast in There Will Be Blood is thin but does there job extremely well. Paul Dano stars briefly as Paul Sunday, but shines as Eli Sunday, Paul’s twin, who is a fire and brimstone prophet slowly building a following in his congregation. Eli hopes to use Daniel to build his church and they duel back and forth fighting for position through out the film. Ciarán Hinds is also excellent is his brief appearances as Plainview’s right hand man during the 1911 segment; which is most of the film.
Dillon Freasier deserves mention for doing great work as the adopted H.W. and for holding his own with the beast the Day Lewis creates on screen. Freasier does great work as well with H.W.’s arc and is the only window into a possible good soul inside Plainview.
Last, but certainly not least, Day Lewis is astonishing again as Plainview and just broods evil and power the entire film. He is a force to be reckoned with and deserves the accolades he is earning in this award season.
Paul Thomas Anderson shot his most beautiful movie yet with some great long takes and a very patient camera that isn’t rushing to get that close up and allows us to just soak in the environment and setting. There are a number of memorable shots throughout and he continues to be one of the most visually arresting directors working today.
In the end, There Will Be Blood was very close to being a masterpiece, but unfortunately fell a hair short. While reflecting back, the movie grows better and better in my head, which means subsequent viewings will most likely help this to grow even better, but as it stands it is still a triumphant film and just amazing for the first 2/3 or so. The scenes previously mentioned drag a bit along with a few scenes at the end that serve to be a bit redundant even if they showcase great work by the actors involved and serve no purposes other than hitting home the fact that Plainview is a cold hearted bastard. And again, all of this is fine; I just wish it was done a bit quicker. If you are a fan of Daniel Day Lewis or Paul Thomas Anderson, ambitious epics, or fans of period films with a little history, then definitely seek this out, as it will not disappoint; maybe just frustrate a little.
9.25/10 (updated after a second viewing)


From Around the Web

Please Leave a Comment