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There Will Be Blood (2007)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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6.5
 / 10
13 votes
Genres:
Drama, Family Drama, Period Film
Director:
Paul Thomas Anderson Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring:
Daniel Day-Lewis Daniel Day-Lewis
Martin Stringer Martin Stringer
Matthew Braden Stringer Matthew Braden Stringer
Jacob Stringer Jacob Stringer
Joseph Mussey Joseph Mussey
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 14, 2008
People keep comparing "There Will Be Blood" to "No Country for Old Men". Why? The two films are about as similar as "Magnolia" and "Fargo". Other than some thematic elements and the dark undertones of the films, they are totally different in structure, style and delivery. I guess if I could compare the two even further I would say - "No Country for Old Men" works so well because of a fierce performance from Javier Bardem; similarly, "There Will Be Blood" works so well because of a fierce performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. But, you take Bardem and Day-Lewis away from those films, and they cannot stand on their own. A film is supposed to be a total package. When a performance is so forceful and so dominating that the absence of it causes a void in the picture, you need to examine why the other elements are not enough to keep the film afloat. That said, I loved "There Will Be Blood". It has problems, as does any film on such an epic scale; but, on the whole, the picture paints a frightening portrait of a man obsessed by success, greed and the desire to best all those around him. Paul Thomas Anderson was a good friend with the late Robert Altman, which is fitting when you consider Anderson is following in Altman's footsteps. "There Will Be Blood" still follows in his footsteps, though not in the ways that "Magnolia" or "Boogie Nights" did. This film bares more resemblances to Altman films like "Images" and "That Cold Day In the Park". But, Anderson also has a style all his own. "There Will Be Blood" takes it to a new level.

In one of the most brutal and complicated performances of 2007, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Daniel Plainview, a self-proclaimed 'oil man' who is driven by his desire to conquer all competitors and achieve the highest levels of success. The film finds him coming to a small California town, where he has been told oil is seeping out of the ground. He sets up camp there alongside his son and partner, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), who goes deaf after an accident. The film follows Daniel as he struggles to manage his oil, his family and his growing hatred of all those around him. The film really comes to us in three acts. The first act involves Daniel coming to the town and his conflicts with the local healer, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), who is a little more religious and zealous than Daniel would like. It involves Daniel discovering the oil and deciding how to proceed. The second act starts when Daniel's brother, Henry (Kevin J. O'Connor) comes to town. Daniel makes him his partner and two strike up a bond. The third acts takes place years later, with H.W. grown and Daniel alone in a large mansion, more successful than ever. As you can tell, the film's plot and progress revolves around the character of Daniel Plainview and the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis. For many reasons, it's a one may show. And, my goodness, what a show it turns out to be.

As I mentioned earlier, if you take Day-Lewis away, what do you have? Luckily, "There Will Be Blood" has far more to rely on than most other films. For starters, the cinematography from the great Robert Elswit is nothing short of phenomenal. It brings back memories of those great Terrence Malick pictures like "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line" - those sweeping landscapes. The decision to shoot in widescreen was also a fine decision, which also gives the film so throwbacks to Stanley Kubrick, whose tone the film borrows from considerably. The score by Johnny Greenwood is one of the best of the year and really heightens the tension therein - it reminded me of a hybrid between "Rosemary's Baby" and "Giant". In terms of the art direction and production design, this is one of the most authentic period pieces I have seen in a while. Everything looks as old as it is supposed to look, and that's actually something very difficult to accomplish for a lot of pictures. Now, on to Paul Thomas Anderson. What a director. What a visionary. He had an idea in his head for how sweeping and gigantic this film would be and he carried it off almost perfectly. He lets his actors act and he lets the camera speak for itself. He puts just the right amount of faith in what the audience can handle and accept and he doesn't bash the audience over the head with pretentiousness or anything like that. He's confident in his abilities as a filmmaker. If he was lacking in any department, it's the script-writing for this film. The performances disguise it, but this is not one of his strongest scripts. It just doesn't lend itself to fluid progression.

Can I continue to stress how amazing Daniel Day-Lewis is in this film? He consistently proves himself a force to be reckoned with and he is masterful here. In fact, he is so strong in all of his scenes that it makes the other actors seem to inferior. This only presents itself as a problem with the Paul Dano character. Dano is a fine actor and does a great job with the role, but when put up against Daniel Day-Lewis, he dwarfs and seems weaker, performance wise, when really he is not. It's just difficult to act next to someone to eclipsing. Kevin J. O'Connor has a nice supporting role as Daniel's brother and it was nice to see him in something again. I would have liked to have seen more of Ciaran Hinds in the film. His character seems to obsolete and he is such a fine actor, I wanted to see something more dynamic with him. The best scenes in the film tend to be between Day-Lewis and Dano, especially at the church when Day-Lewis is being baptized. This is one of the great scenes from 2007 and both play it so well. But, to name all of the classic scenes in "There Will Be Blood" would double the size of this critique. The bottom line: if you have no other reason to see this film, it's worth it just to watch one of the greatest living actors do what he does best and have all the fun in the world doing it. For Daniel Day-Lewis, this is his King Lear.

The primary problem I had with the film was I felt the third act was out of place. It didn't seem in keeping with the rest of the picture. I understand Anderson was attempting to show Daniel's descent into maelstrom - the consequences of all of his social and psychological problems, but it just seemed indifferent to the rest of the film. I am not saying it should have been cut out, but I think it would have benefited from more consideration. Otherwise, "There Will Be Blood" deserves all the positive buzz its receiving. It's one of those great epic films you see and remember, and I haven't seen one of those since "The Assassination of Jesse James..." and "The Thin Red Line" before that. I don't see "There Will Be Blood" taking home the Best Picture Academy Award, but I think Daniel Day-Lewis has a strong chance of winning Best Actor, and I don't see how the film can't rack up on the technical awards. "There Will Be Blood" is not my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson movie - I still possess a strong affinity for "Magnolia" - but it's certainly the first step in a new direction for the filmmaker that I am excited to follow. Is it a masterpiece? Yes, but a flawed one. And that's not an oxymoron. It's just the cold, hard truth.

8/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 02/16/2008, 01:31 AM
I really enjoyed it, up until the last 20 minutes or so; where I felt it sort of lost the gusto of the first two hours. It's a shame it had to end on a less than perfect note, considering the rest of the film was a masterpiece. Had I seen this last year, it would have definitely made my top 10 movies. Daniel Day-Lewis adds yet another perfect role to his already stunning resume. 9/10
Edd #2: Edd - added 06/27/2008, 11:13 AM
"I drink your milkshake!" - 10/10
Optimus Prime #3: Optimus Prime - added 01/14/2009, 11:25 PM
Bastard from a basket - 10/10
Lucid Dreams #4: Lucid Dreams - added 06/15/2010, 01:54 PM
Great acting and the ending caught me off guard. 9/10
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