2008-02-08 / Community

MovieScope

'There Will Be Blood'- Thicker Than Water
Review By Robert Snyder

In "There Will Be Blood," actor Daniel Day- Lewis bears a striking resemblance to John Huston in "Chinatown."

A coincidence? It's doubtful. Huston's Noah Cross is a corporate American villain obsessed with stealing water in dry 1930's Southern California. Day-Lewis is Daniel Plainview, a selfmade monster madly in love with oil in turn-ofthe century Southern California. While Cross may have ice water in his veins and Plainview's arteries flow with oil, both have hearts of stone.

Based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel, "Oil!," "There Will Be Blood" is writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's epic saga of one man's obsession with what became the essence that now fuels the world. But back in 1898, when the story begins, mass production of the automobile was yet to happen. Aprospector searching for oil may have appeared eccentric. However, that is what we see Plainview doing in the extended near-silent opening of the film. He is digging deep in the dry, rocky California terrain like an insane earthworm. He knows what he is doing, though no one else does.

Years pass. Black gold begins gurgling from his hole, but not before one of his workers is accidentally killed, leaving behind a baby boy whom Plainview pretends is his. At age 10, the boy, H.W. (Dillon Freasier), travels with Plainview as the "family man" convinces destitute landowners to sign leases allowing him to drill. One of them is Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), whose brother Eli (also Dano) is a fire-and-brimstone preacher, determined to build a church near the oil well. While it is unclear whether Paul and Eli are the same person, the latter is everready with an evangelical rant. Always confrontational, Eli and Plainview have their share of quasi-comical slap fights, eventually escalating into serious violence.

Anderson tells his story slowly, punctuating the often nonsensical narrative with explosions of emotion stemming from Plainview's strange aggressive temperament. In fact, he is much like oil itself…ready to erupt, gush and blow up into flames at any minute. He has no love for anyone, not even H.W, only for oil. Women play no role in his life.

This is a long, long movie (2 hours and 40 minutes), which is solely sustained by Day-Lewis's smoldering, but bombastic performance. Plainview is meaner than his Bill, the "Butcher," character in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York." It is hard to believe that the sensitive soul who selflessly dedicated his Screen Actors Guild Best Actor Award to the recently deceased Heath Ledger is the same person. Now, that's acting.

Go see "There Will be Blood" and see a great actor play a great American villain.

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