Daniel Day-Lewis Does Dallas
I'm not surprised that "There Will Be Blood" won 2 Oscars; I am surprised it didn't win more despite being nominated several times. There is no other way to put it "There Will Be Blood" is truly a magnificent movie, engaging, brutal, fascinating, violent and despite running at a bum numbing 158 minutes gets you gripped from start and doesn't let you go till the finish. Between director Paul Thomas Anderson's gift for story telling and a performance of such greatness from Daniel Day-Lewis "There Will Be Blood" rarely suffers from dullness even when the focus changes during the final third of the movie.
Having made himself an influential figure as an oil prospector, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis - Gangs of New York) and his son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) head off to Little Boston, California where following a tip off from Paul Sunday (Paul Dano - Little Miss Sunshine) discover oil on the Sunday farm. Determined to own it all he sets about smooth talking the locals into allowing him to buy and lease their land in return for them helping to develop Little Boston, leading him to run ins with the local reverend Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). Over the years Daniel succeeds in building his wealth and power as he taps the huge oil field but at the same time men die and those who were once close end up despising him for his greed.
Right from the start "There Will Be Blood" grabs you, a 12 minute series of scenes where not a word is spoken, well maybe a grunt or moan, but nothing recognizable. Yet this series of scenes tells you so much about the central character of Daniel Plainview a man so full of grit and determination that being injured or nearly dieing will stop him. And without dialogue it makes it even clearer that Daniel is a driven man because it is his actions that tell you more than words ever could.
Those opening scenes work so well because of Daniel Day-Lewis becoming the embodiment of Plainview; in fact the whole success of "There Will Be Blood" owes a lot to the powerful performance of Day-Lewis. He creates a believable character one who is determined, selfish, brutal and violent who will do anything he needs to get what he wants which when stripped away is power. So effective is Day-Lewis's performance that it feels like Daniel Plainview is someone pulled out of the history books, a pioneer of the oil industry whose greed lead him to power. And strangely here in Daniel we have a man who is blatantly nasty, yet he is fascinating, you instantly become turned on by his determination rather than turned off by his violent, ugly side.
Part of what makes Daniel Day-Lewis's performance so great is the delivery of the well written dialogue, and there is not a single dead word in the entire movie. First he gives a believable low gravely voice which mixes American and Irish just perfectly. But that's not the main reason it's the fact that he believes everything he says and doesn't say much unless he has to. So you get the short, abrupt side of Plainview who asks questions, demands answers and doesn't suffer fools yet there is the other side the almost lyrical as he talks his way into what ever he wants. It's another facet of why Day Lewis's performance is so good, so worthy of the Oscar as it makes this a character, not just an actor trying to play someone.
Daniel Day-Lewis is not the only actor to deliver a powerful performance and Paul Dano as reverend Eli Sunday creates an equally fascinating character whose battles with Plainview make up a sizable chunk of the movie. Dano's performance is best described as enthusiastic imbuing Eli Sunday with religious fervour, yet at the same time shows the devious side of the man whose battles with Plainview stem from something more than just doing God's work. Their battles really do set the screen alight, physical and verbal showing further sides to both their characters.
Whilst there is not a single poor performance in the whole of "There Will Be Blood" it is director Paul Thomas Anderson eye for detail and ability to spin a story which takes it to another level. Every single set, every character, costume and moment of drama not only draws you into the life of Daniel Plainview but transports you back nearly a century to when all of this was taking place. Interestingly in a movie which gives us a look at how the oil business started, the dangers of these pioneering oil wells the action side of it is for the most underplayed. There are a couple of moments of set piece drama, an oil well going up in flames being one of the most visual but it ends up a minor moment in the movie, all but one which is pivotal to another story thread.
The lack of action will be a thing which could easily put you off of "There Will Be Blood" as it is by no means what I would call a modern mainstream movie. The story is about the character of Daniel Plainview and his constant strive for more and more power, squashing all those who gets in his way. And as such it's about what this greed and determination does to him as a man pushing him ever closer to being lonely and delusional, especially in the way her treats those around him. It's this focus on a character and not the drama which will make you either think it is brilliant or boring.
What this all boils down to is that "There Will Be Blood" is a truly magnificent movie, a wonderful character study with a stunning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview. It is beautifully made, epic in feel and totally compelling as the focus falls on the single minded determination of Plainview to gain total power. But as such it's not what you would call mainstream, it's not full of action, set piece after set piece and if that's what you need to be entertained then sadly the chances are "There Will Be Blood" will bore you.