Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There Will Be Blood

I need to reassess my Oscar predictions. I think There Will Be Blood could be one of the front-runners, and I certainly think that Daniel Day Lewis deserves the best actor win. Paul Thomas Anderson hasn't had a major film since 2002's Punch Drunk Love (which is one of my favorite movies of the decade). He returns in full force with this adaption of the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!. The movie fully captures the essence of the greed and corruption that follows wherever oil is found. As Lewis's character put it "I am an oil man, and I am a family man." Clearly, however, you cant be both.

Lewis portrays Daniel Plainview, a self made oil businessman who will claw his way to the top any way possible with his son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier, and Russal Havard when he's older). The two make their money swindling ranch owners out the oil beneath their properties. This all changes when they come across Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). He is the young preacher at a local church and does not want his father to sell their property for less than it's worth. As the movie progresses we find out he is no better than Plainview and is just as much a charlatan- except he peddles God instead of oil.

The characters in this movie are dense with layers. Plainview is a borderline nihilist, not liking a single person he comes across. He looks at other people simply as a way for him to get what he wants- and this may include his own son. Sunday is a phenomenal character, and Dano is a phenomenal actor. He portrays the preacher with such fervor that it's almost scary. Then it's slowly revealed through his random bouts of anger and misdealing that he's not all he seems to be. Dano plays this change so subtly that it doesn't immediately jump out at you. Not bad considering stories that he only had four days to prepare for the role.

The story is as dirty as the oil drenched characters. All of these people will do anything to make money off others. Drilling, siphoning off oil, scamming, dealing with union oil, and even murder are all common practices. Everything leads up to the violent climax that's actually a little difficult to watch. My only complaint is that it was almost three hours long. This is a little on the long side, no matter how good the movie is. Especially in this movie where the plot should not have taken three hours to develop. Some of the scenes ended up being a little redundant. It doesn't get boring, though, because Anderson throws everything he can into making these characters as realistic as possible.


No comments: