Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gods and Monsters

There will be Blood is a great film and you get the sense Paul Thomas Anderson (the film’s director) knows it is. Films like this don’t get made in Britian, it takes the confience and moral certainty/superiority of an American to make something with this much attack. It never strays far from the extremely pointed edge, yet you let the film take you there because you know you are in safe hands.

It is a film about a giant of a man, a monster fuelled by ambition and greed. Daniel Plainview is charismatic and articulate, making him an utterly compelling hero, before we are introduced to some of the more troubling aspects of his character, which undermine his worthyness somewhat. It is a film about the will to power and the corrosive effect that can have, a simple idea expressed with clarity and purpose, which sets the film in a great American tradition, think of films like Citizen Kane, Treasure of the Sierre Madre, Giant, The Godfather.

Daniel Day Lewis is so naturally larger-than-life in the central role he fills the screen in way that is rarely seen. This is an iconic turn that recalls DeNiro in Raging Bull and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, in terms of pure, vital aliveness on screen. An instance of a special kind of chemistry that happens between actor and character that shakes your expectations of just how powerful cinema can be.

It is also worth noting Jonny Greenwood’s exceptional score, which is discordant at times, lyrical at others, and goes beyond simply punctuating the emotional beats of the action to suggest something more primal.

Finally, anyone who wants to tell you this is a thinly veiled metaphor about America’s reliance on oil is a nit-wit. To saddle the film with such a pat explanation of its themes seems worryingly reductive to me. This is, simply put, a great story about a great character told confidently by a great filmmaker.


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