Saturday, January 31, 2009

Family Matters: There Will be Blood(2007)

About five years ago I decided, as a fan of sci-fi and horror films, that it was time to "expand my horizons", so to speak, regarding movies. I've never been a fan of comedies(with a few exceptions) and I despise romance comedies. Dramatic films had captured my interest in the past, though I never took the time to actually watch any of them from beginning to end. Fortunately for me, I now can appreciate quality dramatic films(and dramatic epics) and one that I recently watched(on DVD) immediately comes to mind: There Will Be Blood(2007), a film written, directed and produced by Paul Thomas Anderson and loosely based on a novel called "Oil!" by Upton Sinclair.

Actors who can carry a film all by themselves are generally the exception rather than the rule. Saying that actor Daniel Day Lewis is most definitely the exception, as his marvelous performance in this film illustrates. Lewis is notoriously choosy about the roles he takes in movies. That said when this actor does go to work the result is usually stellar.

In There Will Be Blood Daniel Day Lewis plays "Daniel Plainview", a hard bitten and even more hard driving California oil prospector in 1902 who finds oil, and a personal rivalry of sorts, in a town in California. Plainview arrives in town and sets up his business which is drilling for oil, finding the oil, piping the oil out and making his profits. The town's youthful preacher, "Eli Sunday", has ambitions of his own, which include the expansion of his church. Sunday is young but a stubborn and determined fellow who manages to lock horns with the older, deliberate and, we find out later, borderline psychotic Daniel Plainview.

The prologue of the film effectively establishes the world in which Daniel Plainview strives to make his profit. Plainview and the other oil prospectors toil away in isolation and the elements, grimly digging wells and hammering away with their picks and mattocks in the hopes of reaching black oil.

Daniel Day Lewis' character "Plainview" is a mixing bag of things: determined, strong willed and driven. He's also paranoid and has a general disdain for just about everyone he meets. Plainview is also a man possessing a temper and a decided mean streak, as "Eli Sunday" discovers late in the film. The movie itself is gritty and the cinematography quite good. The best part of There Will Be Blood for me is the game of cat and mouse played out by the characters "Daniel Plainview" and "Eli Sunday". At the conclusion of this movie there is no doubt who was the cat...and who was the mouse.

This movie is one of the best dramatic films I've seen in the last fifteen years. The film's trailer: