Tuesday, February 5, 2008

There Will Be Blood

You've probably been hearing about this movie There Will Be Blood, which is getting a lot of attention for Daniel Day-Lewis's amazing performance. He's said in a number of interviews that the character really started coming together for him when he found the voice and sound that he would use, and that made sense when I saw the movie. It's an odd, round, weirdly cadenced voice that makes his bursts of uncontrollable yelling all the more frightening.

And yell he does. Daniel Plainview, oilman, who climbs up from being a single miner with a bucket and a stick of dynamite, is an inexplicable character. "I have a hunger in me," he says in a rare moment of confession. The film is really all about exploring that hunger, and incidentally about the oil industry. I had read that it was about the conflict between Plainview and young preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, also a great performance). It is, but there are just innumerable other threads, none entirely surprising and yet woven into a whole that keeps you engaged (and in my case, still thinking about bits and pieces). Plainview himself is such a mixture of good and evil that you could interpret the film on a number of levels (not least of which is the intertwining of oil and religion, as my friend pointed out). One of the eeriest moments, for me, is when he grabs the little girl, Mary Sunday (Eli's sister), at the picnic celebrating the opening of the oil well in the Sundays' town, compliments her new dress, and promises her that her father, sitting right across from him, won't beat her anymore. The power dynamic in that moment and Plainview's uncharacteristic protectiveness which might just be posturings are strangely tense.

The oddly abrupt ending, which I won't spoil, is made even odder and more abrupt by the break into classical music, which is used for a lot of the score. The score's very creative, by the way, although apparently not original enough to get nominations. Gorgeous cinematography, too. I think it would lose a lot if you watched it on a small-screen TV.

I don't give it a blanket recommendation -- I think it's more for certain people. But if you were thinking about it, then definitely run to a theater. It's a genuine experience, not just a pleasant way to pass an afternoon.

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