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There Will Be Blood: Movie Review


There Will Be Blood - released February 14

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Rating: 7.5/10

Daniel Day-Lewis returns to the big screen as Daniel Plainview, a shrewd businessman who starts out mining silver but inadvertently strikes oil in the process.

It is based on the 1927 novel OIL! By Upton Sinclair. The start of the film is set at the turn of the century when oil mining was a fast-growing in a dog-eat-dog business where being cunning is the only way to reach your target and cunningness is thinly veiled behind a friendly smile and a modicum of civility.
 
Soon after receiving a tip-off about a vast area of land where oil may be plentiful, Plainview, with his young son in tow, buys the land off the devout uber-God-fearing Sunday family.

Yet, the more financial success he has, the more he loses what really matters to him. He loves his job and his son but hates everybody else, who are merely pawns employed to make him money. He doesn't want them there; it's a necessity.

Plainview's business acumen is fully functional, to the extent he goes through a baptism to get a lease on a crucial piece of land, but throughout the film the thought 'but at what cost?' regularly registers. Is it all about money and will he really be there for his son when he needs him most?
 
Hollywood epic

When writing reviews, it's often best to omit fluffy adjectives such as 'nice' and, well, 'not nice' I guess. But I'm going to use a fluffy adjective anyway. It was 'different'.

For me, this wasn't a huge Hollywood epic with fast-paced action scenes that we have all become accustomed to in the 21st century and my thought is that it never set out to be such a film. It was film art and the style was distinct.

You would be forgiven for thinking this was a 1950s movie in colour after the first half hour as there was not only classical, formal dialogue but simple shots that slowly and effortlessly moved us through the story.

There was no middle ground in any aspect of the film, whether that be visually or audibly. The shots were either super-wide to show us the expansive scenery or close up in Day-Lewis' face, registering every emotion, facial twitch, deep breath or line he had to say.

It would be fair to say that hopefully you are a Day-Lewis fan because you get pretty up close and personal with him for a good percentage of the movie.

Slow pacing

The dialogue was very well-written even though there wasn't much of it.

However, what was said was meaningful and to the point which fitted in well with the essence of the Plainview character. The mantra 'show, don't tell' seemed to be in full effect with the first 15 minutes of the film having no dialogue at all but showing the viewer everything they needed to know about the protagonist.

The pacing of the film could be likened to that of an old Western film. Scenes were long and revealing, with very few cuts to allow the viewer to take a breath. This led the film to continue for a little too long, although there was a sense of really being there with Plainview and seeing him develop as a person.

Unfortunately, his humanity deeps to be sinking further than his oil drills and whilst we feel ourselves filling with either hatred or sympathy towards the man, he never seems to reflect his emotions back to us.

He hates us as much as the characters he has to endure in business meetings with the only difference being he actually has to talk to them. But even when they ask him a question, he simply answers with a question of his own, never really showing his intentions until he really has to.

Paul Thomas Anderson's direction is assured and lets the audience make up their own minds on scenes. He shows an increased maturity from previous movies Boogie Nights and Magnolia.

Distracting

The soundtrack for the film was a point of contention for a few, with a love/hate conclusion arising as a net result. Much of it sounded like a warped THX theme with a horror genre in mind which didn't really fit. The idea of a soundtrack is to compliment the film, not totally dominate it and it became so distracting I found myself wondering how long the chords were going to last.

But, again, the film set out to be different and although the soundtrack didn't always sit well, it could be argued that Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood's thought behind the music was to fulfil the film's remit of 'difference'.

The cinematography from Robert Elswit was outstanding and conveyed everything we needed to feel attuned to the characters, no matter how much we despised them.

Paul Dano's rollercoaster of emotions as Eli Sunday within his sermons was terrifying but as glorious as the Father he worships with the juxtaposition of him and Day-Lewis in a baptism scene that was sensational. It epitomised the very essences of both characters with business versus faith truly coming to the fore.
Dillon Freasier as Plainview's son, HW, and Day-Lewis develops well on screen, even though it is in a negative direction and HW's despair crescendos at the same rate Plainview's loving father status diminishes.
 
The film was different and it was good. We are with Daniel Day-Lewis throughout the whole film and his award-winning performance did not disappoint. If you are looking for a fast-paced action flick, this probably isn't for you but if you appreciate the art of film, this is definitely one to watch.


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