“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.”
– Daniel Plainview
SYNOPSIS: The film follows the rise to power of Daniel Plainview – a charismatic and ruthless oil prospector, driven to succeed by his intense hatred of others and desperate need to see any and all competitors fail. When he learns of oil-rich land in California that can be bought cheaply, he moves his operation there and begins manipulating and exploiting the local landowners into selling him their property. Using his young adopted son H.W. to project the image of a caring family man, Plainview gains the cooperation of almost all the locals with lofty promises to build schools and cultivate the land to make their community flourish. Over time, Plainview’s gradual accumulation of wealth and power causes his true self to surface, and he begins to slowly alienate himself from everyone in his life. – via IMDB
So recently James asked me if I wanted to get involved in his Paul Thomas Anderson blogathon. I was like hell yeah, sounds great. Plus it would get me off my butt and watching There Will Be Blood, something I just haven’t gotten around to for years, though I have been meaning to. Well, now was the time, right?
Let me start with the runtime. I cannot talk about anything else until I have addressed the excessive and insane runtime. This is not to say that the story was bad, or the performances sucked, or it was produced badly, not at all, quite the opposite of that. I am a big fan of long movies, you guys know this. What I am saying is that the runtime was overindulgent and unwarranted in the case of There Will Be Blood. Coming in at 158 minutes, this film could have easily done with cutting at least thirty minutes off the runtime. I just needed to talk about that, because I forfeited a whole evening to it.
Now, on to the other aspects of the movie. I thought that the cast was really good and they handled their material very well. Naturally, Daniel Day-Lewis dominated his character and the screen time he was granted, and as the story progresses becomes a significantly more unlikable and unsavoury character. It tells you something about the grace with which he handled himself because, no matter what, you still wanted to watch this cracked man. Then there was Ciarán Hinds (I still have no idea how to pronounce his name). I think he is a very under-appreciated actor, and again impressed me here, though he was a man of few words. He was not as ruthless as Daniel Plainview, and he seemed a bit more in touch with his human side (I am here specifically looking to when H.W. lost his hearing, and Daniel was more focused on watching the oil rig burn as opposed to finding out how his son was doing, and it was Fletcher who went straight back to the boy). Also, Paul Dano. Gosh, that guy always plays such a creepy guy! This was no exception. His initial character, the brother Paul, was not bad. But Eli? That character was totally reprehensible. I was not a fan, and he freaked me out a bit. Ugh! It cannot be denied, however, that he was absolutely excellent in his part, and I really loved watching Eli and Daniel together, be it in church or fighting or chatting or anything.
The costume design was very good and authentic, and the dialogue was alright for the most part, although it came across as stilted at times. The movie was shot beautifully, but there was a wealth of scenes that could have been taken out, shots that just panned because they could, and some conversations that didn’t really contribute to the film. Now I know I might be in the minority for not being head-over-heels in love with this movie, but I will acknowledge that I liked the story, I adored the conclusion, and the journey was good. The work done on here was really respectable, and it came together nicely. I even enjoyed the themes explored at length here (wealth, family, greed, religion). But even after all of that, I cannot pretend that there were not flaws, the biggest of which being the length, how the pacing dwindled at times, as well as the fact that the only two characters you actually see develop are Daniel and Eli.
6/10 – I know that I am in the extreme minority with this, but all in all it felt like a tedious affair that had some great moments sprinkled through it and was carried by solid performances but is ultimately rather forgettable in the long run. I honestly feel if it was a little shorter, the story would have been tighter and flowed better, allowing the audience to be drawn in more. I certainly won’t be rushing for a re-watch on this.
Thank you very much to Zoë for this review – I thought it would be interesting to start the blogathon off with a review that was perhaps not entirely positive! Please do check out Zoë’s blog here.