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There Will Be Blood Movie Poster

There Will Be Blood
Three and a Half out of Five Stars
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Directed by:
Paul Thomas Anderson
Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Ciarán Hinds, Kevin J. O’Connor
Released by: Paramount Vantage Pictures

In Short: A tour-de-force performance by Daniel Day-Lewis and some fascinating visuals still cannot make this tale of a turn-of-the-last-century oilman’s descent into madness more than a long slog through the muck.

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Chewing the Scenery
Obsession, Religion, and Evil Collide in California

by Jenny Peters

"There Will Be Blood" is director Paul Thomas Anderson's ("Boogie Nights,""Magnolia") first attempt at an epic, as he brings Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel, Oil!, to the big screen. A very loose adaptation of that story of an oilman and his young son, Anderson's film shifts the setting from 1920s California to the earlier 1900s, removes the socialist themes that are central to the novel and focuses on Daniel Plainview, the father, whose obsession with grasping wealth and power overwhelms his reason and humanity.

As played by consummate actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Plainview is a relentless prospector, first looking for silver, then oil. He's a man who will stop at nothing to make the deals he needs to gain access to the sere California hills where plentiful oil is hidden, a loner whose only companion is his obedient young son H. W. (Dillon Freasier). When Plainview and his crews descend on a small goat farm and discover abundant oil there, his effect on the surrounding community of Little Boston is almost cataclysmic, especially when it comes to a Holy Roller preacher (Paul Dano), who insists that the oilman recognize that God is key to his successes.

Dillon Freasier and Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood

Their inevitable religious clashes are at the center of this overlong film that allows both men to chew the scenery, especially Day-Lewis. His squinty performance as a hatred-filled man who slowly, steadily descends into drunken madness is certainly a sight to behold. And Dano (you know him as the silent son in "Little Miss Sunshine") gives as good as he gets, with a weirdly impassioned take on a young man obsessed with religion and power.

The film's soundtrack, by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead fame, and cinematography (Robert Elswit) are both impressive, but as this film goes on and on and on, with its inevitable ending telegraphed long before it actually comes to pass, it becomes extremely hard to care any longer. The lead character is so oppressively nasty, the landscape so relentlessly bleak and the endless digging, drilling and gushing so repetitive, that by the time the almost three-hour epic finally cuts to black, the overwhelming feeling is one of relief that the thing is finally over.

(Updated 01/11/08 NJ)

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