REVIEW: There Will Be Blood [2007]

“I will bury you underground”

There Will Be Blood is a staggering work of genius. Paul Thomas Anderson has, if he hadn’t already, cemented himself as the director of the present and future. While his previous work compared to the great Robert Altman, this entry is by all accounts his Kubrick picture. At every turn I could think of nothing else but comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s body of work. The cold, detached artistry of it, the gorgeous visuals bolstered by powerhouse performances, and the patience with which to allow a story of this kind to ferment and show itself, are all characteristics fusing them. Here comes the shocker, though—and it is not more of a shock to anyone but myself—I think it is his worst film as far as my emotive connection to it. Now, I’ll add that even his worst is better than 99% of the films made in a year, but a disappointment is still just that. What really pains me, however, is the fact that it is an almost flawless piece of art. At every moment I can only think of perfection, yet a void to why it is so. It is an issue of brilliant parts whose sum just doesn’t add up. If nothing else, this film may make me change the way I look at cinema. There has been no other film that effected me as much as this, no other that will stick with me longer after my viewing; it should earn movie of the year for just that alone. Hitting on so many levels it unfortunately leaves me in confusion at the end. Much like Kubrick’s “masterpiece” Barry Lyndon—for which I thought of more than once sitting there today—this is a piece of work that will be studied and dissected and copied for years to come. Technically perfect, it has everything it needs except my adoration. Leaving me cold, I just can’t wrap my head around it.

Here is where I wake up and see how personally films can touch a person. There Will Be Blood can and will earn awards and it will deserve every single one of them. I would even venture to say it would have my vote in every category as well…all except Best Picture. If it wins, will it have earned it? My answer is a resounding yes; I just couldn’t be able to bring myself to say it. Anderson has my undivided appreciation for what he has done. Visually stunning, I cannot think of one bad moment. Even with the audience I saw it with laughing at inappropriate moments (I understand those instances had comedic elements and that a character in them saw this levity themselves, however, they should not have elicited laughter) there were no faults. Being able to touch people in that way, making them so uneasy and uncomfortable that it is necessary to release the built up tension with a laugh only strengthens the argument of its greatness. It actually makes me angry that I can’t just say screw it, I loved it, best film I’ve ever seen.

At its core, this is a tale of one man’s complete and utter descent into hell. What once was a man of integrity and hard work becomes one filled with greed and hubris, flying too high and unable to feel the slow burn of his wings. Daniel Day-Lewis is allowed every reprieve thrown his way. The ability he has to embody so completely every character he portrays is astounding. Taking four years off between films is not only acceptable, it is necessary in order for the audience to recover from his brilliance, let alone his own needs to gain back the energy and life left on the celluloid. The devil is most definitely inside of Daniel Planview; unable to trust or love those closest to him, he sees the loneliness and solitude awaiting. Beginning on his own in 1898—falling down a well and breaking his leg without help around for miles—he will eventually find that same detachment in 1927, although he is surrounded by wealth and creatures on the payroll. A family business for sure, it just takes a little while to notice that his family consists of only one member.

The supporting roles are all superbly fleshed out too. From Ciarán Hinds seeing what was happening in the desert wasteland, to Kevin J. O’Connor as his unknown brother, to Dillon Freasier as his son and partner H.W., each plays his piece of the puzzle, helping build to the inevitable conclusion, bringing to mind another Kubrick classic The Shining. One person truly succeeds at attempting to match Day-Lewis’s dedication to the work, though, and he is Paul Dano. Actually cast during production, after the letting go of the actor who had already begun filming as Eli Sunday, Dano is scary as the prophet for the Church of the Third Revelation. His sermons are difficult to watch and powerful beyond belief. When he and Day-Lewis share the screen, you can’t even imagine what might happen next. The spite and hatred brewing beneath both exteriors is palpable, ready to spill over at any moment. Words cannot describe the effectiveness of their relationship, both very much similar in opposite ways, tasting evil and relishing its desserts.

At almost three hours in length, I couldn’t believe it when it had ended; the pace is break-neck. Even more remarkable is the fact that much of the film is told in silence, save for Jonny Greenwood’s haunting and disjointed score, (reminiscent to an episode of “Lost”), with just actions and scenery to progress the plot. With the first twenty or so minutes to be completely wordless and still create a complete background for the Plainview role, I can’t comprehend the genius that is PT Anderson. Sure he owes plenty to the masters that came before him, but one can’t doubt his skill and artistry here. He has my full respect and I will be seeing this film again, most likely multiple times, in the future because there is perfection at work. I give him full benefit of the doubt; it is me who is broken. Nothing this glorious can be any less than the best and if I can’t see it now, it is I who needs to be shown where I have gone wrong.

There Will Be Blood 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] Daniel Day-Lewis as “Daniel Plainview” and Dillion Freasier as “H.W.” star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood”. Copyright: © 2007 by PARAMOUNT VANTAGE, a Division of PARAMOUNT PICTURES and MIRAMAX FILM CORP. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Francois Duhamel
[2] Paul Dano as “Eli Sunday” stars in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood”. Copyright: © 2007 by PARAMOUNT VANTAGE, a Division of PARAMOUNT PICTURES and MIRAMAX FILM CORP. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Francois Duhamel


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