Monday, April 8, 2013

1000. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Running Time: 158 minutes
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Main Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin J. O'Connor, Ciaran Hinds
Click here to view the trailer


Earlier today, before watching "There Will Be Blood", I started to watch "Lincoln" (2012 - Steven Spielberg) and at about the one hour mark, decided I'd had enough and skipped out on it (more on that at the end of the month, in the monthly recap). Oddly enough, "There Will Be Blood" was another Day-Lewis picture that, upon my initial viewing, many years ago, I also skipped out on. With that being said, I was quite surprised with my final opinion after tonight's viewing.

Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) is an oil man. When the picture begins, we get about a twenty-minute piece that could be compared to the opening of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and his dawn of man sequence, as we watch Daniel go from discovering oil shale, to actually striking crude oil. We then skip ahead a few years and watch as Daniel goes from poor prospector to very successful oil tycoon, buying up land all over the West and establishing drill sites. His son, H.W. (Freasier) is his partner and Daniel uses this to his advantage, citing that he and his operation are a down to earth, family business. One day, Daniel is approached by Paul Sunday, who tells him that on his family's land, there is oil that seeps up out of the ground. Daniel is skeptical, but pays Paul $500 for the exact location of the his family's farm and goes to check it out. What he finds is a gold mine and goes to Abel Sunday, the family patriarch and offers to buy the land. However, Eli Sunday (Dano), Paul's twin brother, holds out for more money than Daniel agreed on with Paul, as he wants it to fund a local church. Eventually the deal is sealed and Daniel starts drilling, with seeds of bitterness planted between Eli and Daniel. Later, an accident at the drill site causes H.W. to be injured and lose his hearing, prompting Daniel to send his son away to San Francisco where he can be specially taught.

So, I think the first question that has to be answered is why did I give up on "There Will Be Blood" so many years ago? Well, we'll chalk it up to not in the mood at the time of the initial viewing and leave it at that. Honestly, that has to be it, because I was gripped by this picture from the get-go. The opening scenes, totally void of all dialogue, only served to have me give this picture my full investment, as I wanted to know more about this man, after I was finished observing his actions. This man, as I put it, is Daniel Plainview and he is played to PERFECTION by Daniel Day-Lewis. Honestly, I feel kind of silly for saying that, because literally everyone who sees "There Will Be Blood" comes out of it, whether they liked or disliked it, citing that, at the very least, Daniel-Day Lewis was excellent. Well, it's true and that's that. Acting rarely gets much better than this, as you obviously have an actor who is committed to transforming himself, committed to becoming this greedy, world hating oil man. Day-Lewis manages to accomplish a tricky feat and that's creating a character that is intimidating. Rarely do you watch a film and are literally intimidated by one of the characters, but Plainview brings about that feeling. And hey, big applause to Paul Dano, who not only hangs with Day-Lewis but hangs well, standing right alongside one of the most brilliant actors of our time and getting in his jabs as well.


So what's it all about? I honestly thought there would be something more to "There Will Be Blood", some big revelation at the end of the picture or something that wrapped everything up neatly. That "something" never came and what we're left with is a picture that simply explores different themes and never really wraps anything up, neatly or otherwise. Anderson's use of music (eerie, would best describe it) and religious overtones, only served to keep my suspicions peeked - suspicions that something else was coming, but again I reiterate, that the "something" never came. So instead of having a story driven picture - one that goes from Point A to Point B - you have a movie that explores themes; more specifically greed and the greed of this particular generation. At this time, you had greedy men coming out of the woodwork, I'm sure. Not only was there oil ripe for the drilling, but, as we see in the movie, greed in the form of a false prophet, a conjurer of cheap tricks, if I may borrow a phase from Gandalf. At first, I personally was on the side of Daniel. At first it seemed as though we were dealing with a pretty straight-forward fellow (as intimidating as he may have been). He wanted to take care of his son, a son whose mother died in child birth and he wanted to capitalize on the times and the resource that was spewing from the ground. We, of course, are meant to see Eli as the villain, as we are given to assume throughout the entire movie that his motives are not genuine and that he's really just as greedy as Daniel, and even worse, because I viewed Daniel's greed as more motivated (he had a son to care for). Oh well, I'm going down a path here, with no possible exit, so I'll just let my jibber-jabber speak for itself.

And what about the revelation that H.W. was not Daniel's son? Was that true or was that Daniel trying to hurt H.W. for leaving him and possibly even trying to hurt him for going deaf. I got the feeling that Daniel resented H.W. for getting hurt, because he didn't have his normal son anymore and was forced to care more diligently for H.W. - something he didn't want to be bothered with. If Daniel was telling the truth, then it's obvious that Daniel DID, at one time, love H.W. as a son. It's obvious during his reaction when he gets hurt, his reactions when someone else speaks ill of him and even when they're riding the train together, when H.W. is a baby, at the beginning of the film - that look they share. I found their relationship to be just as fascinating a part of the film, as any other themes or ideas that were explored.

All in all, I'd call this one a big win and something that I could really grow to love and something that COULD end up rivaling "Le Trou" for that #1 spot. Right now, I'm still chewing it over, but I'm really enjoying what the taste that my buds are soaking up. Oh and for you Kubrick nuts, this film seems to reek of Kubrickian inspiration. Not only those opening scenes, but also the bowling alley scene and even the way the picture just seems to end out nowhere. Isn't there a Kubrick picture that does that - just ends very abruptly? Is it "Clockwork"? I can't remember...

RATING: 8.5/10  Big thumbs up from this guy and I needed it. After wavering heavily on "Shoah" and despising "1900", it's nice to see a couple of hours of the last seventeen (of movie watching) be fruitful. However, for the people who say this should've been the Best Picture of 2007...sorry, "No Country for Old Men" is still better.


April 8, 2013  1:35am

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