Friday, March 21, 2008

Matt Komar's Review of "There Will Be Blood"

My Rating: ***1/2
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano and Dillon Freasier

2007 was magnificent year in film. Well, in the artistic sense since that was the year of "Transformers". But that year also brought us a reawakening of artistic film making. "No Country for Old Men" was the crowning achievement of the year. Other films made challenges to usurp "No Country"'s crown. "Atonement" fought hard, so did "American Gangster". But no other film really wanted that crown than "There Will Be Blood", which may have kicked "No Country" in the pants quite a few times for film supremacy. Now with that metaphorical intro, I'm not saying "There Will Be Blood" is the second best film of the year, cause it ain't. It's a top tener, no doubt about it, and maybe in ten years I'll watch it again and say "Fuck No Country for Old Men!". "There Will Be Blood" is a product of Paul Thomas Anderson's ambition, which he has plenty of. He made "Boogie Night" (156 mins) and "Magnolia" (188 mins). Now he made the messed up masterpiece "There Will Be Blood", and I thank him for this. He's now America's best new director (take that, Tarantino!) and he may lead the way for another New Hollywood. "There Will Be Blood" is Anderson's cry to the other young directors to not give a damn and make movies the way they want movies to be made. "There Will Be Blood" is not perfect by any means. It's a messed up masterpiece though. PTA's direction is perfectly syncopated with Daniel Day Lewis' tremendous performance. They dance through this tale of greed and corruption while Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood's haunting score plucks it's way to it's startling conclusion. DDL is Daniel Plainview, a silver miner who accidentally discovers oil in one of his mine shafts. In the process, a man gets killed in an accident and Plainview adopts his son. Ten years later, Plainview is growing oil tycoon, using his "son", H.W., as a way to win over potential land sellers. One day a man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) meets him and works a deal with him that on his family's ranch, there's oil. Now when Plainview and H.W. go "quail hunting", they're there for the Texas Tea, and works a deal with Paul's twin brother Eli (also Paul Dano), for $10000. $5000 for the land, $5000 as a donation for his new church. The rest turns into a battle of wills and corruption.
Plainview beats up Eli in public for not healing H.W., who is now deaf from a derrick accident. Eli makes Plainview confess his sins in public while beating the "devil" out of him. That's the film's weak point. You have nobody to root for. Plainview is a greedy, and Eli is a hypocrite. Sure, their conflict is intriguing to watch, but the viewer will not care who will win. It's a battle of who's eviler. Then again, one can see the film as an analogy of the American Dream. Think about it. No business, whether it be oil or religion, became successful without being greedy, deceitful and just plain ambitious. When DDL proclaims, “I’m Finished!“, he has completed his job by destroying the competition. Then again, there will be analysis.

Yet everything is still magnificent. PT Anderson's direction is marvelous. Robert Elswit's cinematography captures the harsh desert landscape of California. Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano are both electrifying. Johnny Greenwood's score is mesmerizing and it's a shame that he was not nominated for an Oscar. Same goes to Paul Dano. Day Lewis is definitely going to win the Best Actor Oscar. However, Paul Thomas Anderson's writing is not perfect. It's uneven at some points and tries it best, but the fact he came up with the already unforgettable "Milkshake" quote gives him bonus points:

Daniel Plainview: I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! (obnoxious slurp) I DRINK IT UP!

"There Will Be Blood" is not perfect, but it's a messed up masterpiece from an ambitious director. Expect more great films from Paul Thomas Anderson. Drink it up, lads. Drink it up.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson shows Daniel Day Lewis how to drink up a milkshake.

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