Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Drinking Your Milkshake Since 2007: A Review of There Will Be Blood

Yes, we know, this movie was released in 2007. For future reference, there will be some reviews of older movies. This blog is not entirely devoted to up and coming releases (although that’s the main subject). That being said, YAMB hopes you enjoy the work presenting now, no matter how long ago you saw this movie.
Insert Clever Caption About Mustache.
Critic Wesley Morris wrote as a description of main character, Daniel Plainview, in his review of There Will Be Blood that “he's the smoke, the ash, the lava, and the volcano.” In truth, though, while this character description is accurate (and just plain awesome. Who doesn’t want to be described as a volcano?), it perhaps acts better as a description for the film itself. There Will Be Blood is a force of nature, a steadily increasing conflagration.

The entire picture is shot with a sort of gritty realism, employing many longer-than-usual shots and ridding itself of the digitization and CGI that so many modern filmmakers rely upon so heavily (I’m looking at you James Cameron). Musically, the film is rather spartan but for a few well placed tracks. These manage to transform even the most mundane scene into something emotionally arresting. One entire scene merely portrays a crowd of people silently transfixed as an oil refinery burns, while the soundtrack, performed by Radiohead’s guitarist Johnny Greenwood, is allowed to play in the background.

In his latest project, Director Paul Thomas Anderson has taken the style of a traditional novel (specifically Oil! by Upton Sinclair), and then added the adrenaline and force of a summer blockbuster. Set in California in the time of the turn of the century, There Will Be Blood follows Daniel Plainview as he sets out to create for himself an oil-based empire. The plot is simple: man seeks power, man receives power, power drives man mad. It’s the characters that really bring both this plot to life in a compelling manner. Daniel Day-Lewis, as the oil man himself, brings forth one of the most fascinating and complex individuals that film has produced in quite some time. Self-obsessed, psychotic, manipulative, and tough as nails, Plainview is, as critic Chris Farnsworth puts it, “a man with whom you do not wish to screw.”

An article written in the New York Times Magazine speculates that the original actor chosen to portray the important supporting character Eli Sunday, Kel O’Neil, quit in the middle of production because he was too intimidated by Day-Lewis’ acting and imposing presence, which remained present both on and off set. Paul Dano, the actor chosen to replace O’Neil for the role of Eli Sunday, works effectively as the scheming pastoral foe of Daniel Plainview. The two function as foils of each other, each seeking the same goal but by opposite means.

Capitalism and fundamentalist Christianity are displayed side by side in rising conflict; represented by Day-Lewis’ character Plainview and Dano’s Sunday, respectively. This is never more apparent than in the film’s explosive conclusion. Everything up until this scene is a crescendo, building up to the famous, crazy, and . . . well, bloody final moment. There Will be Blood is not, as some have called it, a “masterpiece.” Does one describe an inferno as a masterpiece? No. Instead the film is an imperfect beauty, a volcano waiting to erupt.

Official YAMB Rating: Like

Nate S Grading Scale:
Plot: A-
Characters: A
Acting: A
Music/Camera Work: A
Overall Grade: A-

"You Sack of Wine!
-Nate S

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