It’s too early for a full review of Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and I don’t think I could possibly do this movie justice after one time through, but I wanted to get a few quick impressions on the record. Spoiler free and shrink wrapped for your protection.
First of all, I can’t remember enjoying watching someone act as much as I enjoyed watching Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Ok, I loved Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, but Lewis is in almost every scene of a difficult, 2 hour and 40 minute movie and he carries the thing for a large chunk of that running time. The first large portion of it, there is little to no dialogue, but Day-Lewis is completely captivating with just his physical presence.
He’s different in every movie he’s in. He doesn’t seem to rely on the same ticks and mannerisms that so many actors, even the great ones, seem to carry from one movie to the next. It’s as though he throws away his bag of tricks and starts from scratch for each movie. When the first trailer for There Will Be Blood started playing (I tried to avoid it but couldn’t stay away somehow), several people noted a certain similarity to his Bill the Butcher in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. Seeing the performance in full, the two characters are light years apart. They share an intensity, but they are two fully realized, completely different, flesh and blood human beings. So many actors seem to make careers out of repeating variations on a theme. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Day-Lewis is on another level entirely.The crazy part is that the man sitting on the stage politely answering stupid questions from the audience afterward is almost unrecognizable from the characters that so firmly stick in your mind. The voice of course is changed, but the body language, the carriage and the very facial expressions are of a totally different person. I guess that’s why they call it acting.
Despite my admiration for Day-Lewis, this was a difficult movie for me to warm up to. It went along for a good hour and a half with me liking it, but not being in love with it. It turned the corner in the final scene and completely won me over, but I have to admit I had my doubts if it was going to live up to the hype. Even so, I want to see it again before setting my opinions in stone. As a result, I wonder what its prospects for Oscar Best Picture will be. A lot of people who know a lot more about this kind of thing than I do seem to think it’s a lock, but what are the chances of a movie that needs to be seen at least twice to be fully appreciated? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s deserving, but I think it might be a tough sell especially to people watching it on Academy DVD screeners. Perhaps Academy members are sharper than me. Anyway, I hope they give it a chance. If it doesn’t get any hardware, it might be difficult putting this thing over to a mass audience.
There Will Be Blood is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! It was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and it stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 26, 2007. Keep an eye out for it.