Saturday, February 16, 2008


Finally went and saw this one in a theater a few weeks ago, and if you haven’t yourself yet done so, I strongly urge you do so at once. “THERE WILL BE BLOOD” deserves just about every drop of hype gushed upon it, and just narrowly misses out on being the best film I’ve seen this year (that would be the equally-hyped “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN” – for once in my life my personal favorites match up with those of “The Academy”). I read that “There Will Be Blood” cost a paltry $25 million to make, and yet it’s a movie that absolutely screams to be seen on the big screen. As you've no doubt heard, Daniel Day-Lewis's performance is as outsized as his character, and as a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson's films (especially "Punch-Drunk Love"), I'm satisfied that this is his best one yet. It's at least likely to be the one he's remembered for at the grave. More reflection on this film makes me that much more rapturous over it, so I guess I'm glad I'm finally putting ink to paper now.

"THERE WILL BE BLOOD" is an epic broadside to both entrepreneurial capitalism and to evangelical Christianity. I'm not sure which gets off worse, but I'd probably go with religion, even though most folks will look at the Daniel Fairview character (Day-Lewis) & conclude that, because he's on screen for 99% of the film, his chosen profession of money-making is what's on trial here. Fairview is quite a complex character, not a total monster but certainly bordering on obsessive psychopathy. To the outside world, outside of his desire to drain California of oil, he's a total blank slate. He lies, he ignores questions, he reveals nothing, and masters every encounter with either charm or a nasty threat. He looks dangerous every second of the film, even when he’s showing a sliver of tenderness toward his son. One of the great nuances of his character is that he is so proactive and loving at times of this son - who (and I don't think it's a spoiler to day this, since it happens at the very start of the film) as it turns out isn't even his son (!). I think the Day-Lewis performance resonates so strongly with people because you know the man is capable of totally exploding at any time, and yet, until the last 30 minutes or so of this long film, he really doesn't. It has been very hard for me to get two phrases from this film out of my head: "I Drink Your Milkshake!" (already becoming a worldwide catchphrase) and "A bastard in a basket!!". Once you see the film, you'll know why.

His nemesis - perhaps the only one he's ever been truly threatened by, is a holy-roller preacher named Eli Sunday (played extremely well by Paul Dano). What might be the single best part of this entire great film is Daniel Plainview's churchhouse "conversion" by Sunday (which you can actually watch right here!), a step he takes solely to be allowed to drill more oil and to get even more filthy rich. It's possibly the one lone time in the man's adult life he's ever been humiliated, and it's absolutely excruciating for him to go through. It sets in motion the film's violent end. At the end, when Plainview truly is finished vanquishing his final foe, he exclaims, "I'm finished", and with that, so is the film. Total black comedy in an weirdly funny, very disturbing film that I half thought was going to be one long anti-oilman trip. I think I'm going to pay real cash money to see it in a theater again.

Celluloid Hut Rating: A


John R said...

Jay: Totally agree with your review. Daniel Day-Lewis -- OMG is he incredible in that film. If for no other reason (and there are plenty of other reasons), folks need to see it for his performance alone. The movie takes a really dark turn halfway through (more or less at the point of his humiliation at the church), which is a bit jarring, but even so -- like you -- I can't recommend it highly enough.

Anonymous said...

... and for once no Pop/Cave/Waits/Jack White in sight, thank GOD! Cave's 'surprise' appearance in the Assassination of Jesse James nearly ruined it for me... Tom