Villainous Epic Bleeds Brilliance

    Sitting with eyelids yanked back and muscles paralyzed at
    the image of Daniel Day-Lewis collapsed at a bowling alley, you feel foolhardy
    to even attempt to wrap your mind around “There Will Be Blood.”

    There’s a sense that you’ve experienced something brilliant
    on a cosmic scale, and yet it will take days, even weeks, to begin
    understanding this tightly coiled epic. You will compare it to Kubrick’s “2001”
    for its breadth, then Coppola’s “The Godfather” for its subtleties, Orson
    Welles’ “Citizen Kane” for its themes, and countless other masterpieces before
    realizing that to liken Paul Thomas Anderson’s new, ambitious tale of madness
    to any cinematic forefathers defeats its genius. Every way you turn to describe,
    or categorize, or even summarize, morphs into a dead end. You’re back at square
    one: the film.

    Adapted from Upton Sinclair’s minor novel “Oil!,” “There
    Will Be Blood” finds Sinclair’s portrayal of cutthroat greed intact and its
    overly socialist underpinnings ditched in favor of a duel between the Almighty
    and the almighty dollar. Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York”) is Daniel Plainview, a
    self-made oil tycoon who travels the West at the turn of the century,
    swallowing up townships to increase his growing taste for all things with a
    price tag. When he arrives at Little Boston, a small community with oil
    prospects, Plainview is faced with young nemesis Eli Sunday (Paul Dano, who
    casts off the indie shackles of “Little Miss Sunshine” to shine as a bona fide actor),
    the town’s seemingly humble preacher, hiding his own thirst for power and money
    behind the cross and a self-proclaimed ability to heal.

    There’s no saving grace to Plainview, no Achilles heel that
    explains his bitter, miserly pathos, which, as he acknowledges, puts in him a
    competition against everyone. Of course, almost no one else sees this when
    Plainview, in public, puts on a kind, fatherly face, painting himself as a
    “family man” (thanks to his adopted son, H.W., remarkably realized by newcomer
    Dillon Freasier) and a businessman who respects small town values.

    Behind the scenes, he’s an astute oil shark able to steer
    clear of his superiors’ cons while using the same tactics to swindle the
    everymen below. Anderson spends the screen time building up Plainview’s layers
    (and Sunday’s, to a lesser extent), either masking or revealing the insanity
    within. One brilliant choice he made to achieve this is the classically
    abstract score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, which teeters on Kubrick homage
    yet serves primarily as a peek inside Plainview’s mind. Ultimately, the film is
    a grand exercise for Anderson, breaking away from his past soul in “Boogie
    Nights” and “Magnolia” without sacrificing his signature style, in what seems
    to be a new quest for a great American film.

    The years will probably be good to “There Will Be Blood.”
    Like our number two on the list of best films of the year, “No Country For Old
    Men,” this sprawling period piece will be revisited and studied by future
    students of cinema, general cinephiles, and historians interested in what
    America was like today. See it once, and you’ll be blown back in your seat. See
    it multiple times, and you start to comprehend some core philosophy Anderson
    only begins hinting at. The problem with printed reviews is that once the ink
    hits the page, there’s no turning back. The initial ideas have been set in
    eternity. But films like “Blood” are fluid, always changing to the naked eye
    and remaining relevant as our cultures shift. It’s a testament to everything that’s
    great about the movies.

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