If there's a screen performance in 2008 that comes anywhere near to matching Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning turn in There Will Be Blood
, then we've come nowhere near to seeing it. A tour-de-force of acting and a career high for Day-Lewis, it's the highlight of an extraordinary, really quite daring piece of cinema.
That said, we've come to expect nothing less from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, the man who previously brought us Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love. However, he's really topped himself in terms of ambition with There Will Be Blood, an adaptation of Upton Sinclair's book, Oil! It follows Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) who, when we first meet him in the film's silent opening is attempting to mine silver, before he discovers oil and slowly builds up an empire off the back of it. There Will Be Blood then follows his rise to power, given the vast riches that his oil brings him, concurrently exploring his relationship with his son. It proves to be a long, complex, stunning piece of work.
There's little room in There Will Be Blood for much more than the sheer power of Day-Lewis' performance, but credit Paul Dano (last seen saying an awful lot less in Little Miss Sunshine) for attempting to go toe-to-toe with the leading man. He's a foil of sorts for Plainview, playing a man as troubled and torn as Day-Lewis' character, and it's a career high to date for the young actor. The film, too, is a match for anything Paul Thomas Anderson has done to date, and that's some achievement.
With no easy resolution, and a degree of complexity in its characters that we all-too-rarely see from modern American films, There Will Be Blood is a challenging, at times breathtaking piece of cinema. It won't be to all tastes, and it adamantly refuses to give easy answers, but it's as daring as anything youll see on screen all year. And Day-Lewis' performance ranks next to any of the all-time greats that you'd care to mention. --Simon Brew
Director Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood
is a masterly, unflinching examination of a consummately evil man. Daniel Plainview (via a transcendent performance by the great Daniel Day-Lewis) is, as he likes to remind those around him, an oil man: he finds it, he drills for it, and he makes money from it. Following a tip from a visitor named Paul Sunday, whose family sits atop a veritable ocean of oil, Plainview travels to the town of New Boston, California, with his young son. Sunday's preacher brother Eli (both roles are played by the excellent Paul Dano) grudgingly accepts Plainview's ambitions under the condition that he help fund the town church. As Plainview's plans come to fruition, a series of events begin to fracture the insular world he has constructed for himself, pitting Plainview against Sunday and forcing him to become even more vindictive and ruthless. Anderson proved with Boogie Nights
that he was adept at handling expansive storylines and layered plots; however, he stakes out a claim here as a new master of the cinematic epic. The film is visually stunning, and alternates between lush widescreen shots of the desert and meticulously composed, darkly lit close-up of his actors, presenting complex images of the American landscape and the souls that dot it. As a narrative, There Will Be Blood
is told with a sense of economy, yet never at the expense of the film's inherently grand scope. It's difficult to determine precisely what Anderson wants his viewers to take from the experience: the film is, in the end, appropriately complex and ambiguous. There Will Be Blood
forces us to confront Plainville, who seems to be a larger-than-life personification of evil; that we don't entirely understand him at the film's conclusion is not a shortcoming, but rather a tribute to the depths of this most vile creature and this most brilliant film. Note: There Will Be Blood
will be packaged in environmentally-friendly cardboard made from recycled paper.