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|There Will Be Blood|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Paul Thomas Anderson|
with Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin J O'Connor, Ciarán Hinds, David Willis, Colleen Foy, Hans Howes, Coco Leigh, Vince Froio, Paul F Tompkins, Mary Elizabeth Barrett
release US 26.Dec.07, UK 8.Feb.08
07/US Miramax 2h38
Master of all he surveys: Day-Lewis
Loosely adapted from the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!, this operatic drama rivets us to the seat from the wordless opening reel and never lets us go. This is robust, fierce filmmaking with a staggeringly detailed central character.
Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) is a miner at the turn of the 20th century who turns his skills to oil drilling and soon becomes an expert. Then he hears about a patch of untouched oil-rich land in central California, so he and his son HW (Freasier) head west to trick the settlers to sell their property to him. He quickly moves in on the Sunday family, with trusting Abel (Willis) and daughter Mary (Foy), who's about HW's age. But son Eli (Dano), the local minister, starts preaching about the evils of the oil trade.
Nothing Anderson has done (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) prepares us for the full-bodied style of this film--so confident and deranged that it takes our breath away. The heart-stoppingly physical imagery is lubricated with mud, blood and oil, and Day-Lewis plays Daniel with the energy of Orson Welles in Citizen Kane: an American icon who is, frankly, unstoppable (although this story is more Howard Hughes than William Hearst). He's tough and unbending, but also a dangerously smooth talker, a charming devil. As the story continues over three decades, Day-Lewis' performance deepens and tightens into a terrifying portrait of gut-level greed.
When he's on screen, the other actors barely catch our eye. Although Dano is superb as Daniel's nemesis, an irritating thorn in his side. Eli is part hero and part villain, and only becomes simplistic at the very end. Meanwhile, Anderson makes sure the period details become mere background, so it feels utterly authentic without ever becoming fussy. A couple of big effects sequences are impressive for their sheer realism, most notably the climactic oil gusher.
Essentially this is an examination of the Christian proverb: What good is it if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? And indeed, the film feels like a biblical epic, from the acting and direction to Johnny Greenwood's smartly dissonant score and Robert Elswit's rich, dense photography. And as a parable about American ambition and excess, it's seriously haunting.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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