Saturday, December 26, 2009

There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood; Drama, USA, 2007; D: Paul Thomas Anderson, S: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O'Connor, Ciaran Hinds, Dillon Freasier

At the start of the 1900s, coal miner Daniel Plainview discovers oil in the desert and starts his own drilling company, adopting H.W., the boy of a worker who died in an accident. Years later, he is a "self-made" oil man who is slowly becoming rich. When a young lad, Paul, tells him about a piece of land rich with oil in Little Boston, California, Daniel rushes there and manages to cheaply buy off a large piece of land from the naive villagers. However, he has to co-operate with Paul's religious brother Eli, an evangelist who insists that the profit of the oil goes to the local church. In an accident, H.W. becomes deaf. A con-man pretending to be Daniel's half-brother shows up, upon which he kills him. The oil business proves to be tough. A grown up H.W. leaves, while a now old Daniel humiliates and kills Eli in range.

After 5 years of pausing, acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson returned in big style with his 5th film, the critically acclaimed drama "There Will Be Blood" in which a great Daniel Day-Lewis won almost every award possible for his role of the greedy "wannabe" oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, though the rest of the film is slightly subpar. Simply put, Anderson didn't do anything wrong in the film, but its story is incoherent, wondering more aimlessly especially towards the pointless end, and its style not as intense as his previous works. "Blood" starts off with a nice 14-minute sequence of Daniel digging for oil realized without any dialogue. The first line is spoken some 14 minutes into the film, showing how he is introducing himself as a "family man" to naive villagers in a desert town in order to buy off their (oil rich) land cheaply.

One of the best things about the storyline is the way it shows how the atheistic Daniel has to co-operate with the evangelist Eli, promising that he will finance his church, in order to get his blessing to buy off the valuable land: they can't stand each other, but are forced to work together, through which the film achieves its clearest point of a clash that can be described as "evil vs. evil", excessive capitalism and excessive religion, a morally bankrupt man vs. a religious bigot, and off course the partnership of cartels and fundamentalists for mutual benefit, according to Anderson. There are some great scenes here, but except for a few dramatic moments (Daniel grabbing Eli and throwing him in the oil puddle) the film is conveniently told and not that engaging. Several subplots, like the one where all of a sudden Daniel's half-brother shows up in the middle of the film and then proves to be a fake, don't lead nowhere. There is little suspense, little emotional engagement and the theme of a rich man who is a spiritual wasteland was done much more precise in "Citizen Kane". Overlong, tedious, excruciating, but good film that was done with talent and measure, whereas the line "I drink your milkshake" turned out to be a classic.


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