There Will Be Blood


Year 2007

Daniel Day-Lewis   as  Daniel Plainview
Dillon Freasier as   HW Plainview
Kevin J. O'Connor as Henry
Paul Dano as   Paul & Eli Sunday
Hans Howes as   William Bandy
 
Director - Paul Thomas Anderson  
Screenwriter - Paul Thomas Anderson
Novelist - Upton Sinclair

There Will Be Blood lives up to its name. There's blood in the movie. Not a lot, but enough. The movie is the slow moving personality analysis of a fictional gold miner named Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) who strikes it rich in oil. The movie is the life of Plainview from his first gold strike to his eventual hermitic seclusion.

The story is from the book Oil by Upton Sinclair. His most well known book is The Jungle which was largely responsible for reforms in the meatpacking industry. Sinclair was an socialist reformer. President Theodore Roosevelt considered him a crackpot. Considering my objectivist point of view, I was afraid I might get angry watching the movie so I put off viewing it. I needn't have worried. It's not a political platform but a story where the viewer draws their own conclusions. I was grateful.

Supposedly, according to synopis on the back of the DVD, the story is a battle of wills between Plainview and preacher Eli Sunday (Dano). Fortunately, it isn't. Oh, the adversarial relationship is there, but it's not the focus of the movie. Plainview has an antagonistic attitude towards the world so Sunday is just another nuisance to him. Well, maybe more than just another nuisance, but Sunday's part isn't that big.

The story is about Plainview and because of the way the story is written, you don't have an opinion of him until halfway through the movie. In fact, the first fifteen minutes, give or take, have no spoken dialog so all you can do is just assess the man by his actions which are admirable for their singular drive and sense of purpose.

About half-way through the movie, you begin to realize what a self-centered individual Plainview is. He appears to be helping others and he says that is, and you want to believe that, but any help he gives anyone is just serendipity for the fortunate ones. It's not until the end of the movie that you start to realize Plainview's motivation.

You see, there are no likable characters in this movie so it's tough to dislike Plainview. You need to root for someone, so why not the primary character, right?

Considering who else you have to champion, you might as well stick with with Plainview. Here are your other choices. There's Eli Sunday who is at least a big of a self-centered ass as Plainview. You've got Henry (O'Connor) who is introduced as Plainview's half-brother who is a dull witted slug that reeks of sleaze. You've got Plainview's helpers who are non-descript but support Plainview unquestioningly. There's a Standard Oil representative that makes a couple of appearances (I'm not sure why he shows up a second time). There's also William Bandy (Howe) who is the hold-out for land that Plainview wants to lease. Bandy seems likable enough but his five minutes of screen time isn't enough for you to care about him.

There are lots of characters that come and go. Their time on-screen is limited to how the characters relate to Plainview. Although it's easy to keep track of who's who, the number of satellite people reaffirms the fact that the story is about Plainview.

Also, I wouldn't call Plainview's path through the two-and-a-half hour story a descent into madness or lunacy. It's more the fact that the layers of the man are peeled back as he accumulates wealth. His character, the man named Daniel Plainview, doesn't grow or shrink or change.

There are problems with the movie. The first is the pacing. I hope that you like slow moving movies. When someone walks from place to place, you often follow the person on the entire journey. It's not a bad device, usually, but it does add time and sometimes you have to force yourself to wait and not fast-forward. But that's not the problem. The problem is that the events selected for depiction are all about the beginning of Plainview's career. The last of the time the viewer spends with Plainview is too short. Bam! He's wealthy, a recluse, and his son is leaving him. Does he still have business dealings? Is he satisfied or still expanding? Who knows? After over two hours spent with the man, what happened to him lately? You never know.

The music, if you want to call it that, is a distraction. Either it's not made using tradtional instruments or the sounds coming from those instruments are not musical. More than once, you'll be confused about what you're hearing. Was that a piece of the oil rig breaking down or was that the score? Was that a train with mechanical problems or the incidental music?

Then there's the acting which is usually very good. I mean Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his role. Then how come he sounds like Sean Connery in some scenes? Daniel Day-Lewis is British. His American accent in the movie comes and goes but is completely missing in the finale. Dillon Freasier as Plainview's son HW? He has the same acting chops as Michael Fishman who played DJ on the sitcom "Roseanne".

It's not a bad movie, and I recommend it as an interesting diversion. It's not deep or poignant. It's slow and ponderous and sometimes loses its way. But it's not dreck even though it's definitely not the, "consummate work of art," people like Dargis from The New York Times would have you believe.

No nudity, some profanity and blasphemy. Characters are only convincing when they're acting weird. No love story, so there's little chick flick potential. Still, if you want something that's a little different without being excessively boring, check it out.


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