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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > There Will Be Blood

MOVIE REVIEWS

There Will Be Blood (2007) One Sheet

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin J. O'Connor, Ciaran Hinds, Barry Del Sherman, Colleen Foy, Paul F. Tompkins, Russell Harvard, Randall Carver, Coco Leigh and Kevin Breznahan.

Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Distributed by Paramount Vintage.  158 minutes.  Rated R.

 

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There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson – the writing/directing auteur behind such modern and slightly surreal films as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love – is certainly not known for his old-fashioned sensibilities, though they were definitely there if you looked between the lines of his previous works. 

However, with his first literary adaptation (all his previous films were original stories, though somewhat based on real life occurrences) Anderson has pretty much jettisoned all of his modern techniques and made a film that is timeless enough that it could have just as easily been filmed in 1940, 1970 or now.  Yet, that timelessness is based on an almost fetishistic devotion to the specific era it is portraying more than an easy fit into the modern world. 

Loosely based on Oil!, a previously-mostly forgotten Upton Sinclair novel about the early days of that industry, There Will Be Blood is gloriously dated.  A product of the time in which it takes place (though with some sharp underlying statements about business and religion in the modern world), the movie is quiet, solemn, larger than life and at the same time grittily sordid. 

The film moves at a calm – and yet never leisurely – pace more suited to the 1920s world that it portrays than the attention-span-starved reality of most modern entertainment.  There Will Be Blood covers decades as they slowly unspool and quietly reveals its characters, watching as all become blacker and bitterer with time. 

It is a brave stylistic choice to show this world at such a measured pace.  Anderson is able to do things that are not heard of in modern cinema.  For example, there is literally not a word of dialogue until just under fifteen minutes into the movie (fourteen and a half to be precise). 

Anderson is banking on the fact that the story will keep the audience transfixed through the quiet times. 

I wish I could say that was the case. 

While in many places the storyline is riveting, too many other spots allow the attention to wander.  Others are merely confusing.  Not that I don’t appreciate it when a director trusts his audience enough to not spell everything out.  I really do.  Just at over two and a half hours, There Will Be Blood is a bit hard to slog through. 

The main problem with the film is mirrored in Daniel Day-Lewis’ acclaimed performance as the anti-hero of the story.  It is a brilliant performance and at the same time it is rather mannered, melodramatic and overwrought – it feels perfectly compatible for the world of the story, but looking at it with modern eyes it also feels a little unnatural and stilted. 

Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, an oilman whose friendly, family-values approach to business (he travels everywhere with his young son, who is deaf and mute) masks a cold, calculating mind.  He is so ruthlessly driven to make money that he will lie, cheat, steal and betray anyone if there is a profit to it – colleagues, friends, relatives, even his supposedly beloved son. 

When he shows up in a small western town to exploit a potential oil deposit, he is placed in a mano-a-mano fight with the local priest, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) for control of the town.  (Plainview and Sunday?  Heavily symbolic names are big here.)  Plainview strives to win over the good people of the burg with the promise of fortune, Sunday barters with salvation.  Neither man is what they seem to be and both are haunted by the other’s power over the citizens of the town. 

To say that There Will Be Blood reminds me of no other movie so much as Citizen Kane is a huge compliment – and yet Kane was a product of its time. There Will Be Blood is not.  In many ways, Blood is in a product of Kane’s time as well.  I can see Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in these roles easily. 

There Will Be Blood is in many ways a masterpiece.  It is beautiful, heartfelt, intelligent and dark.  It is simple to respect the achievement of a film like this just being made in the modern Hollywood system.  I just wish it were a little easier to embrace as something other than a technical exercise.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 4, 2008.

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Copyright ©2008   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 4, 2008.

 

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