Sunday, December 30, 2007

From the Archive: "There Will Be Blood" Film Review

Film Grade: A

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here

Continue reading after the jump to access my original review of “There Will Be Blood.”

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
“There Will Be Blood”
Originally published December 30th, 2007

You know you’re in for one heck of a film experience when the first shot of a pretty mountain range somehow comes off as eerie and unsettling.  Before one line of dialogue is spoken in the film (about twenty minutes in) the filmmaking crew behind “There Will Be Blood” perfectly illustrates the kind of world the characters inhabit, so that when the real action starts, no exposition for how all of this works is needed. 

As Daniel Plainview, Daniel Day-Lewis delivers the first lines.  He discusses why his oil business is better than everyone else’s.  He is a family man and an honest business man...or is he?  Plainview certainly seems trustworthy and friendly, and his business methods are no doubt superior to the competition.  But even in this first scene, Plainview also emanates a small trace of something we don’t like, and the viewer can’t put his or her finger on it just yet.  Madness turns out to be the right word, but we find that out a bit later on.

The plot revolves around this oil tycoon buying out all the land in an area and inviting the residents to come work in his new oil well.  The leader of the community, Eli Sunday, a man of God and ‘faith healer,’ butts heads with Daniel throughout, trying to bring God into a situation that seems God-forsaken.  But are his intentions pure?  Are anyone’s intentions even straightforward in this film?  I’m not sure.  This is a film that demands repeated viewings to get the full message. 

The film is, sometimes, slow and meandering, but this gives it its power.  You don’t realize for much of the film, but the imagery, acting, music, etc. is all deeply disturbing and terrifying you, and when the movie cuts to credits, the entire weight and power of the picture comes crashing down on you, and I wasn’t able to get out of my seat until halfway through the credits.  

Daniel Day-Lewis gives what just might be the best performance of the year as Daniel Plainview.  He draws you in completely, gets under your skin, and plays with your head.  Up until the credits roll, he has completely taken the viewer by force and the performance is nothing short of haunting and disturbing.  I see a rightfully deserved Oscar in Daniel Day-Lewis’ future.  Paul Dano as Eli Sunday is also very good, and complements Day-Lewis’ gargantuan performance with a quieter, more reserved insanity.  The acting across the board is phenomenal.

The music, composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, is one of the single most haunting scores I’ve ever heard.  Every note of every instrument has deep, haunting meaning.  It gives you as much insight into the character of Daniel Plainview as Day-Lewis’ performance.  Every note is timed to perfection within the film, and the result strengthens the film many times over.  An Oscar for Best Musical Score would be well-deserved here.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous cinematography.  There are some really terrific shots throughout, most noticeable in a set-piece where an oil well sets on fire.  It really enhances the film, and this is another category the film should deserve an Oscar in. 

I have to admit, “There Will Be Blood” is not a film for the faint of heart.  There are some powerful, moving, and intensely disturbing scenes that will haunt you for quite a while.  If you have it within yourself, though, I highly recommend seeing this once it arrives in wide-release in January.  “There Will Be Blood” is one of the best films of the year, and a classic for the ages.         

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