Wednesday, February 6, 2008

There Will Be Blood

If there’s one nice thing about being unemployed, it’s that I have a lot of free time to do things like go see two four star films, which I did earlier today. While this was a good thing for me personally, it does kind of go directly against the whole point of me getting that Tomb of Terrors horror pack, which was purchased specifically to drag down my average star ratings and make me look like less of a whore. Still, I am nothing if not honest, and I do so love Paul Thomas Anderson.

The film, based very loosely off of Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!”, follows an entrepreneur named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he slowly creates an empire based around oil derricks in the American southwest in the early 20th century. Everything we need to know about this man, we get in the first scene of the film, where he is working by himself digging coal out of a tunnel, breaks his leg in an accident, and drags himself back out of the well by sheer strength of character, making sure to bring the coal with him. Right away, without any words being spoken we know that this is a man for whom profit is his very lifeblood, and who is capable of overcoming any obstacles thrown in his path.

Despite that, he initially seems friendly enough. After a few early successes, we see him going from town to town with his young boy trying to score oil deals with naïve townfolk, eventually setting up shop in Bakersfield, California, where he runs afoul of a young faith healing preacher (Paul Dano) who wants him to convert both himself and his money into the church. He sours quickly, though, both from the preacher and from an accident at the oil derrick that deafens his son, and he just fills himself up with so much hatred that he loses any previous ability to feel anything else. He becomes a good deal more open with his greed, allowing it and his rage to become his only two character traits left.

One sure sign that I really dig a movie? Way too much time spent on plot description. It helps, though, when the story is as strong as that of this film, but there are certainly other great aspects to it as well, chief among them being Daniel Day-Lewis’s typically masterful work. Remember how I just complained about Robert Downey Jr. not being enough of a lynchpin for Restoration? Well, not only is Day-Lewis as good a lynchpin as one could ever hope for, but the movie around him is even better. A lot of critics have complained about the ending of this film, but I found it to be immensely satisfying, and thought it was about the only logical way the story could end after everything that had been building up to it. The directing is typically top-notch, as one would expect from the maker of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and he even goes the extra mile to capture the feel of the 20s by using an antique camera that curls in on the corners of some scenes like an old silent movie. Special mention must also be made of the score composed by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. It's an extremely effective bit of creepiness that goes a long way toward drawing us into the madness in the film's world. If this is not quite as good of a movie as No Country For Old Men (though it’s certainly no less grim and violent), well, this was an exceptionally competitive year for movies. Its Best Picture nomination was well earned.

Rating: ****

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