A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

There Will be Blood

November 2, 2011

There Will Be Blood

This movie came out in the same year as No Country for Old Men. Both were nominated for a ton of Oscars. It was just a big year for dark, bleak movies. I bought both before watching them, owned them for ages and didn’t manage to get all the way through them until we reached them in our movie a day project. Both of them are heavy going. My impression when I watched the first half or so of each of them back in 2008 was that No Country had more tension and more bloodshed, but this movie was the more intense. There’s a reason that Daniel Day Lewis wins Oscars – and it’s that he’s a powerful actor who picks challenging films and completely dominates them.

Daniel Plainview – the man that Lewis portrays – is a character made up of loneliness and rage who wants to have the world for himself. This movie follows him from his days as a prospector on his own in the wilderness through his time as a wheeling and dealing oil man with his son searching for that next big strike and his eventual success. He’s a smooth-talking swindler whose only passion is his own legacy. He craves success and power for himself and his son.

A young man comes to him with a tale about oil seeping up out of the ground on his family’s property and Daniel goes out to the little Pentecostal town of New Boston and finds that it’s true – the find of a lifetime presented to him on a silver platter. He only needs to bilk the simple hayseeds out of the deeds to their land so that he can drill there and set up a oil pipeline to the coast.

The actual happenings of the film – the tragedies, disasters, betrayals and deceptions – are incidental because the whole movie is really just about Daniel’s descent. He starts the movie utterly alone, and he ends it even more so. This is a powerful character study of a deeply disturbed man who doesn’t realize that no matter how successful he becomes it will never ease the rage that drives him.

This was Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow up to Punch Drunk Love, which Amanda and I have already reviewed. I remember thinking when I first bought this and watched the beginning of the movie that it was an impressive divergence from Anderson’s earlier work. I was familiar with Boogie Nights and Magnolia, which we haven’t watched yet for the project but which I have watched many times, so I thought of P. T. Anderson as a maker of quirky ensemble pieces. Having since watched Punch Drunk Love I can very clearly see the evolution. Punch Drunk Love was a film meticulously designed to elicit an emotional response (a panic attack) and this film seems a natural extension of that concept. It’s a character study that strongly displays P. T. Anderson’s mastery of the filmic toolkit that he uses to manipulate his audience. The movie is full of intense scenes using atonal music and complex hand-held shots that draw us into Daniel Plainview’s upsetting world.

Of course the center of the whole movie is Daniel Day Lewis. There’s no dialog at all for the first fourteen minutes of the movie as it shows us Daniel working on his first drill sight – and when he finally does start talking his tones are so earthy and engaging that you can easily see how all the people he meets fall under his sway. Every single line that he delivers is deep, rich oil welling up from some magical font of actorly prowess. This movie may be long and intense and at times unpleasant, but it’s also a gift to the world from a pair of amazing craftsmen, and as such I can’t help being drawn to it. It’s not a movie I’ll watch often, but it’s a movie that will haunt me. Which is exactly what I think Anderson and Lewis were going for.

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November 2, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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