U.S. Release Date: January 25, 2008 (wide)
Running Time: 158 minutes
MPAA Classification: R (A scene of violence)
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds, Kevin J. O’Connor, Dillon Freasier, Russell Harvard
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Producers: Paul Thomas Anderson, Scott Rudin, Joanne Sellar, Daniel Lupi
Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson, based upon the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair
By STEPHEN EARNEST / August 3, 2011
Paul Thomas Anderson is one the best filmmakers to come about in the industry in a long, long while. His work is always so weird and eccentric, yet somehow it manages to be perceived as mainstream. His latest work, There Will Be Blood, is either a very sophisticated horror film or a completely unorthodox Western.
In the lead role is Daniel Day-Lewis, who won a well-deserved Academy Award for his performance. There’s no need to provide you with a plot synopsis because there’s virtually no plot at all. The film focuses on the life of Daniel Plainview, a man who starts his own oiling business. He makes promises to the locals of wealth and fortune, but doesn’t keep them. Over time, he is enveloped by greed and corruption as he gradually accumulates wealth and power and they get nothing. Eventually, he becomes ethically and morally insubordinate. He cuts all emotional ties with any living thing. Essentially, he is the definition of the word “evil”. Wealth has exposed his true nature.
Without a doubt, Daniel Day-Lewis has the performance of the year, the decade, and his career. He holds nothing back here, creating the most ultimately convincing character I’ve ever seen in a movie. There are rumors that he spent years preparing for this role and I’m not all that surprised. He changes everything about himself as a person–his speech, gait, mannerisms. To watch him first in real life and then in this movie is like watching two completely different people. It’s absolutely astounding.
The other Oscar-winner was Robert Elswit, who has some beautiful cinematography. Those long meandering shots that sort of skirt along the ground are the effect of expert camerawork and Elswit’s win was well-deserved. I found the score by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood to be excellent as well. It makes the movie almost as much as Day-Lewis’ performance, giving us an eerie and haunting backdrop. What a surprise it wasn’t nominated.
I suspect that many will become bored by the film’s frustratingly-slow pace. At times, the films meanders. The final forty minutes are composed of two scenes. Anderson doesn’t feel the need to excite us: he shows us what he wants us to see and we sort of have to deal with it.
In all of my cinematic experiences, There Will Be Blood has managed to be one of the most profound and disturbing ones yet. It is as terrifying as they come, not manifesting its horror with violence and gore, but with true-to-life acting.