Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece. I cannot recall the last time I left a movie theater so certain that I had seen a true work of art; I cannot remember the last film I saw that displayed such audacious ambitions and the means to fulfill them. Certainly the triumph belongs to Mr. Anderson, who wrote and directed the film, and has finally realized his true potential, but perhaps even more so to its star, Daniel Day-Lewis, who, more than merely inhabiting oil man Daniel Plainview, seems to summon him forth; I do not know how such a raw evocation of rage, passion, and violence can simply be considered acting. Obviously, if I proceed in this vein I will quickly exhaust all of my superlatives: for as laudatory a review as I could possibly conjure, and far more eloquently accomplished, I refer you to Manohla Dargis's write-up in the New York Times.
Some stray thoughts:
- Much has been made of There Will Be Blood's thematic connections, especially to Citizen Kane, an obvious antecedent. However, little has been mentioned with regards to the film's stylistic influences. Strangely enough, the feel of the movie reminded me of nothing so much as the psychological horror films of the late '60s and early '70s, especially Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, William Friedkin's The Exorcist, and Richard Donner's The Omen, all of which trafficked heavily in the atmospherics but doled out the scares rather sparingly (especially when compared with today's buckets of blood rape fantasies). Certainly Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood's outstanding score, all dischordant strings and rampaging percussion, plays no small part in this, evoking an undertow of existential dread throughout. Yet even the very composition of the images seems somehow indebted to these films: faces half cloaked in shadow and bathed in firelight, sinister religious iconography, Plainview's son H.W.'s attire - just check out the trailer and you'll see what I mean.
- About the ending, which has, in particular, been seized upon by many critics as the film's Achilles' heel. David Denby, capping an otherwise rave review in The New Yorker, said:
The scene is a mistake, but I think I know why it happened. Anderson started out as an independent filmmaker, with “Hard Eight” (1996) and “Boogie Nights” (1997). In “Blood,” he has taken on central American themes and established a style of prodigious grandeur. Yet some part of him must have rebelled against canonization. The last scene is a blast of defiance—or perhaps of despair. But, like almost everything else in the movie, it’s astonishing.Without spoiling the film for you, I would just note that the film is called There Will Be Blood, not There Might Be Blood. Yes, the finale approaches the Grand Guignol in terms of staginess, and to some extent, gore. But after watching two and half hours of a man as bottled tightly against the obviously ruthless impulses that throb just beneath his surface, is it so unreasonable to expect an explosion? Is it "over the top," as Denby has it? Only, I suppose, if you believe that Daniel Day-Lewis' Plainview has a top to go over, or a bottom, for that matter.