There Will Be Blood. Eventually.

February 3, 2008 at 9:00 am | Posted in movies | 1 Comment

Daniel Plainview: I will give you 3000 dollars for your land.
Bandy: I want you to become a member of our church.
Daniel Plainview: I’ll give you 5000 Dollars.

There Will Be Blood
PJ Cinemas – January 30, 2008

There will be blood. Literally.

and Eventually.

This film runs at 158 minutes, which in my humble opinion could have been shaved about an hour or so. Joining one of my best friend’s Steve, we agreed that even though we both understand pacing and character building requires a good length of time, the plot could have been a touch more concise. After letting it sink in for a few days before writing my review, I do find that I appreciate it much more now in retrospect as a whole.

Barring the time factor, this is a brilliant film. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson of Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love fame, I guess the length and mood shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did. Magnolia is even longer (188 mins), but there is a confluence of plotlines that keeps the mind busy and passes the time more quickly.

Amazing cast!! Daniel Day-Lewis shines as Daniel Plainview, a silverminer turned “oil man” who adopts the son of a man killed in his mine. Fueled by greed and a fiercely competitive nature, Plainview expands his domain from a tip on land ridden with earthquake oil. This information was sold to him by Paul Sunday (played by Paul Dano). Plainview then convinces the Sunday family and the rest of Little Boston area to lease or sell their land for oil drilling. Over time, this makes Plainview very rich and through his dealings in and with deception in business and in life, he slowly becomes more and more consumed with greed and pride, eventually driving him mad. This film harkens back to Kubrick’s The Shining, where the pot-boiling decline of sanity in the main character is gripping and leaves us totally satisfied.

Now, this isn’t really a spoiler, but it’s something that severely affected my viewing experience. When the character of Paul’s brother Eli Sunday first appeared (also played by Paul Dano, most recently seen in Little Miss Sunshine as the electively mute brother/son, Dwayne), I was throughly confused. Was Paul really Eli? Were they identical twin brothers? Was Eli schizo or just a really deceitful liar? Upon their meeting, it appears that Daniel Plainview tries to take a moment to figure that out too. I felt this bit of trivia plays very heavily into Plainview’s relationship with Eli Sunday throughout the film. Not knowing the answer at the time, one can really feel the manipulation, power struggle and betrayal between these two characters on so many more levels, particularly in the climatic ending.

paul dano

According to IMDB from an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Paul Dano revealed that he had originally been cast only in the smaller role of Paul Sunday. However, after Dano had already started filming his one scene as Paul Sunday, Paul Thomas Anderson decided to replace the actor playing Eli. Anderson then asked Dano to play Eli Sunday as well, deciding to change the film and make the brothers identical twins instead. Anderson had asked Dano to play Eli on a Thursday while filming for the role was scheduled to begin on the next Monday, four days later. Daniel Day-Lewis, by contrast, had a whole year to prepare to play Daniel Plainview.

When discussing the relationship between the brothers, Dano made reference to Cain and Abel, adding another level of complex religious undertone to Eli’s character. [Paraphrased] “A boy without radio, television or the internet, Eli Sunday is someone who really invented himself at a very young age through religion and his curiousity with what religion could do for him. He’s quite a bit of an actor, savvy, charismatic, and cunning enough to create his own persona.” A young preacher who semi-successfully swindles Daniel Plainview into erecting a church (aka show arena) for Sunday’s asinine sermons, including devil-casting and faux exorcisms. Dual-purposed and endlessly self-serving, Eli Sunday receives his due in the end. Though brutal and conniving from both parties, the relationship between Sunday and Plainview was the most enjoyable part of the film for me. Paul Dano is fantastic and I plan to follow his career for quite some time.

This film has been nominated for 8 Oscars this year, including Best Picture. Though it is a noble effort, my hat still tips towards No Country For Old Men, an ultimately more suspenseful and tightly knit plot with an equally amazing cast and directors.

Quick shoutout to Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead for the score. Heavy strings and piano created an ominous feeling familiar to those who watch the show Lost. Sliding note dips galore! There was one song in the middle somewhere when Plainview and his *cough* brother are staking out the land for the new oil pipeline (sample called Proven Lands on iTunes soundtrack, not extended version) where Steve and I starting grooving to it! It was awesome and hysterical, well needed comic relief at the time. Static Poetry cover, anyone?

RATING: ****/5 (One star removed for timing. Trim the fat, PTA.)
Recommendation: If you can see it before the Oscars so that you have a frame of reference of why it was nominated, go ahead. Otherwise, you could rent it and bask in the glory of the fast forward button.

there will be blood


1 Comment »

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  1. This was a great movie.

    If you like Paul Dano, you should also watch L.I.E. He is a real rising star.


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