Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There Will Be Blood

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
2007. Rated R, 158 minutes.
Daniel Day-Lewis
Paul Dano
Dillon Freasier
Ciaran Hinds

Plot: Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) is an oil tycoon who gets alerted to a small town that has a veritable ocean of oil flowing beneath its grounds. He sets out to purchase as much land in the area and begins drilling to get the oil out.

The Good: The first thing that jumps out at you is the look of the movie. The cinematography is top-notch. The wide panoramic shots give us some really nice images that don’t seem forced while the tight or in-close shots always come at the appropriate time to crank up the tension. Story-wise, it tactfully avoids giving us a hero and villain by substituting people with two opposing viewpoints. That, along with the ample symbolism helps the movie work in multiple layers. It’s fine on the surface level. Watched that way, it’s a decent but slow movie about a crusty old man dealing with some local yokels and has a peculiar ending. Dig a little deeper and that ending becomes an extremely powerful and ambiguous result of the conflict. That conflict appeared to me to represent the current war in Iraq this country is embroiled in. To clarify my thoughts for you, Daniel represents the United States, Eli and the townspeople represent the religious extremists and other natives of the Middle East. Of course, that makes the land so rich in oil as Iraq itself. Now back to that ending. The way the movie struck me as a whole its an ending that’s very fact of the matter without judging which side is right or wrong. Though, it could be seen as siding with Lewis. Then think about what has happened to the town and what will likely happen to it after the credits have rolled. Without giving too much away, I’m reminded of a quote from Gen. Colin Powell speaking about our going into Iraq: “If we break it, it’s ours.”

The Bad: For some viewers, it will move a little slow. For those that don’t make the same connections to current events that I make, the ending will just remain odd, over the top and lack meaning. The biggest problem is the character Paul who’s played by the same person that plays Eli, Paul Dano. Paul is never sufficiently explained and we only see him once. Still, he’s referenced constantly throughout the movie. I’m just smart enough that it took me ¾ of the movie to decide that Paul was definitely maybe not the same person as Eli. It’s an odd distraction to have watching a movie not based on whether he is or isn’t. Luckily, there’s symbolism to be had there as well. I see him as those natives who actually asked the U.S. to help them.

The Ugly: We get to see how one of Daniel’s guys gets killed while he’s down in the well. Ouch.

Recommendation: For me, it’s an absolutely great movie. However, I have to be careful making a recommendation for it. Like I felt with 2006’s Children of Men and ‘07’s No Country for Old Men the more you get into the symbolism and metaphors the better it gets. If watched just on a surface level, you’ll probably just wonder what the big deal is and have a little less trust in my judgment.

MY SCORE: 10/10

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