Sunday, June 15, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Some movies have weight to them and some are well timed in their release. There Will Be Blood is one of those movies. This was released last year, and amidst our oil crisis, what better time to watch a fantasy of early oil days with wild characters. The driving force behind the film is Daniel Day Lewis' character, Daniel Plainview. His depiction of the slightly crazed, angry, manipulative and forceful "oil man" is captivating. I love Lewis' work, and feel that his role in Gangs of New York is one of the unrecognized great performances of modern cinema. The Academy gave the award to Adrien Brody for a Holocaust movie. A Hollywood tradition: Holocaust Movie = Oscar. Lewis carries this movie, and the relationship between his character and his son, H.W., is the emotional core of the film centered around one asshole of an oil man.

The way that Mr. Plainview interacts with the other main characters is a tremendous study of the type of person who would have to tackle the dangerous and risky job of an independent driller. His interactions with his son, the lame evangelical preacher, his "brother", other oil men, etc. all add up to a portrait of a twisted and driven man. While he is a bit crazy, he is the type of person our world does need to get some things done. Are all of his methods nice? No. He is an asshole in many regards, but he does get results. He just never heard of the expression that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

During the movie, my two favorite scenes showcasing the work of Lewis as Plainview are the first sales pitch scene and then the scene of Plainview's baptism. The first pitch to a community shows Plainview with a P.T. Barnum quality to him if you crossed it with a very suave real estate agent (pre-Bubble vintage). He works the crowd, and when he sense the crowd is not agreeable and docile enough, he exits without wasting anymore of his time. This pitch is the first we actually hear from his character after 20 minutes of film showing him work a silver mine and then a new and rickety oil well. We are introduced to him in a showman's manner, which is a bit of a wink to the idea of Plainview introducing himself and the story to the film's viewers. The baptism is Plainview's price for building his pipeline, which will earn him his fortune. The reluctance to do it was established with his increased monetary offers to the rancher in the previous scene. At the baptism, the young preacher attempts to humiliate him as he confesses and repents, and Plainview has the glimmer of hate in his eye and the sound of fury in his voice as he explains his sins. There is a moment where he smiles and looks playful with how overdramatic the preacher is with his "show". These are the small details that make a movie great. This is what missing in most films today. This movie is full of small touches, and I highly recommend that you see it.

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