Monday, May 19, 2008

Movie Review: "There Will Be Blood"

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciaran Hinds, Dillon Freasier
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Official Web site

Having only acted in three movies since 1997, Daniel Day-Lewis has certainly made the most of his rare on-screen appearances, having pulled in a total of four Academy Award nominations in his career and, counting his riveting performance in “There Will Be Blood,” two Oscar wins.

Taking on the role as a heartless oil prospector in writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s unconventional, yet outstanding drama, Day-Lewis commands the screen. His performance is so focused and mesmerizing, you occasionally forget that there’s a story to be told here.

“Blood” spans three decades in the life of Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis), who is introduced in a sequence of scenes that only feature one single line of dialogue, along with the atmospheric and eerie film score by Jonny Greenwood (better known as the guitarist for Radiohead). It’s one of many bold and ambitious decisions in the film by Anderson, who is in territory significantly different from his stellar work on “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.”

Plainview, as his name might imply, is of a singular vision – he wants to get rich and doesn’t care who he hurts or exploits in the attempt to do so. He makes seductive pitches to landowners in oil-rich Texas, assuring them that his is a family-operated business. His adopted young son, H.W. (Dillion Freasier), is frequently by his side and acts as a friendly face to counter Daniel’s aggressive business tactics.

Slowly building his wealth and power, Plainview runs into an obstacle when he attempts to buy land owned by the family of Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a young, but passionate preacher. It’s obvious from the first negotiation between Plainview and Eli, who is a stronger presence in the household than his soft-spoken father (David Willis), that these two will never become friends.

Plainview sees Sunday, like most people in his life, as an adversary that must be conquered. In fact, the bitter oilman later makes clear, in a well-written scene, his general disdain of people and desire to escape from them. Near the conclusion of the movie, when Plainview has seemingly made good on his wish, few would believe that the price paid for the life he has carved out was worth the effort.

Some will argue that having to follow such a contemptible character around for the film’s nearly 2 hour and 40 minute running time is too much. But few characters as intriguing and villainous as this ever grace the screen, which makes Plainview a character you clearly will never love, but will also find hard to get out of your head. For that matter, the same can easily be said about the movie itself.

Grade: A
(Rated R for violence.)

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