There Will Be Blood
National Geographic Cinema Ventures
Now Showing at: Showcase Springdale and Mariemont Theatres.
Review by: Larry Thomas
With Oscar season in full swing, many films are being distributed in what’s known as a “platform opening.” This means a film does not open in all towns at the same time, in order to build on reviews and word-of-mouth. Such is the case with There Will be Blood. It opened in New York and Los Angeles at the end of last year to qualify for Oscar nominations, then is gradually rolling out across the country. It comes to Cincinnati this week, although only in two locations.
Paul Thomas Anderson, writer-director of the groundbreaking and astonishing Boogie Nights, has attempted to create the great American epic in There Will be Blood. Using as source material the 1927 novel Oil by prolific author Upton Sinclair, There Will be Blood tells the story of Daniel Fairview, a geologist from Wisconsin who follows his vision into mining, and eventual oil drilling.
Fairview is a cold, driven, complicated man. He know what he wants, and is determined in the pursuit. He has a silver tongue and the charm and persistence of the most practiced snake oil salesman. But Fairview also has his demons, and his dark side, as do most people. And, as frequently happens in real life, his moment of ultimate success comes simultaneously with his moment of ultimate tragedy.
The Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis gives the performance of a lifetime as Daniel Fairview, which is a requirement here, as the film is all Lewis, all the time. From the opening shot as he digs in the bowels of his first mine, to the finale, Lewis is on screen for almost the entire length of the story. Sometimes the character is intriguing, sometimes detestable, and eventually, pitiable. Daniel Day Lewis embodies the personae of Daniel Fairview, warts and all. He’s one of the few actors working today with the drive and desire to submerge himself completely into the character he’s creating so that the audience fully believes what they’re seeing. The only distraction in this terrific performance is that Lewis’ accent and inflection in delivering his lines are extremely reminiscent of the great actor-director John Huston.
You’ll not see another familiar face in the cast other than Lewis, yet all the performers are quite up to keeping pace with the star, with the possible exception of Paul Dano. This young actor, from Little Miss Sunshine, plays teenage Pentecostal evangelist Eli Sunday, the burr under Fairweather’s saddle. His histrionics occasionally border on the hysterical, which undermines the believability of both the character and the performance. Young Dillon Freasier is a real find as Plainview’s young son H.W. He is as good as they come at that age.
The first half of the film is gripping and beautiful. During the latter portion of the script, it seems to lose its grip and veer off into scenes and actions that may make you question the logic of what’s happening.
Along the way, though, There Will be Blood offers some telling cinematic insights into passion, greed, capitalism, religion and family. The cinematography by Robert Elswit, who has shot all of Anderson’s films, is breathtaking in its simplicity and beauty. The original score by Jonny Greenwood, of the band Radiohead, is just that…original. Although it sounds more like contemporary chamber music, the score suits the mood of the film perfectly. This is Greenwood’s first composition for a major film. It won’t be his last.
At two-and-three-quarter hours, There Will be Blood is sometimes tough to sit through. But despite its flaws, it’s worth the effort to experience this epic drama with the great Daniel Day Lewis in one of his best performances.