Bottom Line: And there will be bores, too.
“I drink your milkshake. I drink it up!” –Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Barry Del Sherman, Ciaran Hinds, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dillon Freasier, Hans Howes, Paul Dano, Paul F. Tompkins
Heavy, early 1900s-set period drama about Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis). Plainview is a stubborn oil businessman who will do anything and everything to get what he wants. His adopted son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), begins working as a loyal business partner after he is orphaned due to a tragic mining accident. Plainview soon meets Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a spiritually-driven preacher, and promptly purchases for his property, which has a large oil deposit. From there on in the story, Plainview attempts to make promises to much of the surrounding land to build churches and roads, and to strengthen the community. Soon enough, the community begins to realize that the only person being benefited from this is Plainview himself.
Have you ever read a book that you had to get fifty pages into in order to actually enjoy, and after that you still can tend to get bored? The cinematic answer to those kinds of books is THERE WILL BE BLOOD. The film starts out very, very slowly. Within the first fifteen minutes, not ten words are spoken. After that, it begins to work its way up, but it still never becomes sufficiently entertaining. It’s not until thirty-five minutes have passed and the plot (or plots, if you count each moralistic sub-story as one plot) is officially established that this film finally got my attention. That’s when the characters had been fully developed and the script finally achieved some convenient dialogue. About an hour and fifteen minutes through, I had checked out again. Repeat this cycle probably once more. On the other hand, the ending was one of a few things that made me rethink the film. It encased one of the most heated, well-done arguments I have ever seen in a movie, between actors Day-Lewis and Dano. I won’t spoil anything too big, but let’s just say that Day-Lewis drinks Dano’s milkshake*** (so to speak).
“I’m finished.” –Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview
Day-Lewis, in fact, was what made this film ultimately watchable. His performance started out quite mighty, and it only got better from there. I can’t compare it to any of his other roles. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of his other acclaimed performances in films such as GANGS OF NEW YORK, MY LEFT FOOT, and IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER. What I can say is he deserved the Oscar he got for his performance here. His delivery was one of the best I’ve seen of the last decade.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD had a very interesting plot, taken loosely from Sinclair Lewis’s–I mean Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!. The problem is the speed at which the story is told. Had the pacing not been so inconveniently dilatory, I would have given this a much higher grade. I’m not saying films shouldn’t take their time. They should in some cases, and this was certainly one. In other words, there’s a difference between watching someone carefully paint, and watching the paint dry.
***For those who haven’t seen the film, I won’t expect you to understand that reference.