Thursday, January 3, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Speaking of trailers, the one for this film is riveting. So much so I was really anticipating watching what was sure to be an Oscar caliber piece of work. I thought There Will Be Blood = There Will Be Brilliance.

I was disappointed.

This is not to say that Paul Thomas Anderson hasn't crafted a well-made film. The story of an oil man so consumed by greed, bitterness and the need to control everything around him is straight out of Citizen Kane. And the stunning camera work, production design and extensive visual sequences recall Kubrick. Too bad I'm not a fan of either Kane or Kubrick.

The film is gritty and grimy and mean and dirty. Much like the oil business then--and now. With oil prices hitting $100 a barrel, There Will Be Blood is a topical commentary on an industry built on greed and bloodlust. Personally I thought Giant and the James Dean character of Jett Rink portrayed it better.

Daniel Day-Lewis is awesome as usual, but unlike the depth and resonance of the characters he created in My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, his Daniel Plainview suffers from being fairly one dimensional. Although Plainview is part Charles Foster Kane and part P.T. Barnum, we never see the charm or vulnerability. We never know what, how or who created the venal, vicious man that Plainview becomes. I love Paul Dano (forget Little Miss Sunshine, check him out in an earlier role in L.I.E.!), but he was no match for Day-Lewis. I think this is partially due to the fact that his character was also a bit of a cipher. In order to create conflict and have the brutal ending really payoff, his Eli Sunday should have been a foil for Plainview. He wasn't even an annoying gnat buzzing in Plainview's face.

There Will Be Blood is fragmented and disjointed. Although it transpired over 30 year time period, neither of the leads age. Given the expertise devoted to authentic costumes, settings, etc., couldn't some attention be paid to aging the actors with makeup? The music by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood was interesting--but at time I felt like I was watching an episode of Lost and that the smoke monster was lurking around the corner. At times compelling and repulsive, but it was more a visual statement than character study. Without the investment in character development, there is no emotional attachment, no lasting resonance. Disappointing because it could have been so much more.

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