Is the film "There Will Blood" really as
brilliant as many critics said?
“There Will Be Blood” is now available on a
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has certainly drawn from the well of
Hollywood ghosts like Orson Welles and John Ford. This film feels important
and brilliant. The scope and the long drawn-out takes add a sense of scale
to Daniel Day-Lewis' strut as oilman Daniel Plainview. You feel as though
you're watching a work of artistic filmmaking here. There's a little bit of
the pomp of "Citizen Kane," and a bit of John Ford's flawed movie heroes
mixed into Anderson's film. This is controlled and often times stunning
filmmaking. It seems as though every letter "i" has been dotted, and every
letter "t" crossed.
I found myself drawn into "There Will Be Blood." As the movie progressed,
little images of movie critic blurbs crossed my mind. "Flawless filmmaking!"
"An American Classic!" "Truly one of the best films of this century!" I'm
paraphrasing, of course. But the critical consensus about "Blood" was that
it was the second coming of Welles or Ford. Was this film brilliant and
flawless to me, though? I'm still not sure.
The simple story of self-made oilman Daniel Plainview is intriguing.
This is one determined man. Donald Trump, you got nothin' on Plainview.
From Plainview's early mining days, to his rich oil mogul kingdom he's
built, this is man knows what he wants. He's a sharp man and can charm the
hell out of almost anyone he comes across. Not charming in the sense that
the ladies swoon, but charming enough to talk people into letting him drill
on their land. Along his journey to oil riches, he takes a suddenly orphaned
boy (Dillon Freasier) into his life and runs his business with him.
Plainview also is drawn in by a preacher (Paul Dano) who is either a good
man, or a con artist.
Day-Lewis is superb in this film, no doubt about that. His accent is
perfectly suited to what one might think of men in his era. There's an
old-time quality to his performance, bringing to mind actors of the past
like Gary Cooper or John Wayne. He's gruff and hasn't any love for no human
beings. Strangely, he's likable, and even though he ruthlessly pursues oil,
you like the guy. At least you like him for a while. His performance is
strong and understated without resorting to going into hysterics like so
many actors do. Case in point, the Tom Cruise "I gotta yell to make my
point" and-make-my-eyes-bug-out scenes he's so famous for. Day-Lewis doesn't
do that in this film. His performance is cool and confident. You end up
fascinated with this man and his pursuit of oil, no matter the cost.
Anderson's film is very good, but like his 1997 epic about porn, "Boogie
Nights," the film seems so incredibly well-made, yet empty. You walk away
admiring so much of Anderson's filmmaking talent, yet wonder if it really
made an impact on you. "Boogie Nights" reminded me of Martin Scorsese use of
fast camerawork and his fascination with a seedy world. "There Will Be
Blood" reminds me of old-style moviemaking, mixed with a wink of an eye to
Welles or Ford. How might they have made this same film if they had lived in
the 21st century.
Like "Boogie Nights", "There Will Be Blood" sticks with you after you watch
it. Some of the scenes that Anderson directs are so well-done, you think
he's still channeling Scorsese. Most of the performances are incredible, and
if you watch certain scenes, you're awestruck by their proficiency. Robert
Elswit's cinematography is extraordinary. Anderson creates scenes that
college film school professors might show to their students. "Study
Anderson's use of the camera, his dialogue, his directing." He is a good
craftsman. You think to yourself, damn, this is good stuff. He's very adept
in putting you into the world of yesteryear very well.
But after watching "There Will Be Blood" and how it concludes, there was a
let down for me. I asked myself, "Was that it?" Like "Boogie Nights,"
this film becomes muddled with Anderson's insistence upon drawing out the
story as far as he can, and then some. It's as though he's trying to make
bold statements with each scene he creates. It's as though he's making every
scene an homage to previous directors. I suppose there's not much wrong with
that approach. Most of today's directors borrow some of their style from
"the great ones." I remember being in school and some of my professors loved
to bash Spielberg for "stealing" shots from Hitchcock. I thought Spielberg
was so original, and I still feel he's an amazing talent. The strength of
Spielberg in his first heyday (most of the 1970s and 1980s), was his ability
to pay homage, or borrow, from the master directors and make it his own.
There was that Spielberg touch, if you will. Anderson is different. His
films that I've seen are good (I will watch "Magnolia" and "Punch Drunk
Love" to be fair to Anderson). Yet I think despite strong scripting and
directing and acting, Anderson's films feel cold at the core, especially
"There Will Be Blood." They seem to be more about filmmaking technique (as
good as it is), rather than touching and communicating with an audience.
Spielberg can touch an audience. Anderson doesn't. I
think if I hadn't seen so many classic and current films over the years,
then Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" would stand out by being original and
daring. Plus I'm not as young and movie impressionable as I used to be. In a
way, Anderson reminds me of Michael Cimino ("The Deer Hunter"). There's a
sense of filmmaking self-confidence that you see in every frame, no doubt.
But you feel empty inside and unchanged after seeing their films.
I don't hate "There Will Be Blood." It's a film I recommend to people if
they're up for some good scenes and acting. It is a strong bit of
filmmaking. In fact, I liked many of the pieces. As a whole, it doesn't add
up for me. By the way many critics jumped for joy at the sight of "There
Will Be Blood," they made me think that this was this century's masterpiece.
I looked forward to it. I was hoping that someone would make a classic film,
one for the ages, in our new century. That's a lofty wish, but when is the
last time we've had a truly great movie made?
Unlike "The Godfather" (1972) or "Schindler's List" (1993), "There Will Be
Blood" doesn't belong on the mantle of the "classics." At least for me, at
this point in time, it doesn't. A great film stays with you. It continues to
resonate in your head, and you want to watch it again and again because you
enjoy it, not because it's a filmmaker's ode to past cinematic achievements.
I don't think I'll revisit this film like I've done with "Raiders of the
Lost Ark," or "Apocalypse Now," or "Bridge on the River Kwai." "There Will
Be Blood" is a good film, but not a great one.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
Excellent acting, direction,
cinematography, cold heart at the core
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day- Lewis, Paul
Dano, Kevin J O'Conner,
Pictures, dailies, deleted scenes, etc.
Masterful filmmaking technique
Superb sound and color
Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD RELEASE DATE
April 8, 2008