February 1st, 2008


Paul Thomas (Boogie Nights) Anderson finally got off his ass and decided to direct this meandering adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!  Paul’s been away for FIVE years (his last film was 2002’s Punch Drunk Love) so I’ll go easy on him, but this flick is kind of a mess. 


The plot has an extremely greedy oil man named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, who is excellent) who goes around buying up land left and right and has to make an uneasy alliance with a young fire and brimstone preacher (Paul Dano from Little Miss Sunshine) as a way of making nice with the locals.  Plainview lies, swindles and murders to get his grubby hands on his precious oil.  He uses his moonfaced son to show he’s a family man in order to get people to do business with him, however when a tragic accident leaves the kid deaf, Plainview sends him away because the boy’s handicap elicits more sympathy than it’s worth.  As the years wear on, Plainview becomes even more despicable and eventually has enough of the preacherman’s BS and bashes his head in with a bowling pin. 


Yes folks, it takes 150 minutes for us to see the blood we’ve been promised. 


You have a better chance of actually FINDING oil yourself before anything happens in this flick.  Anderson hasn’t made a movie in a while and you can tell he’s clearly having a blast.  The film’s best scenes are the early ones where Anderson slowly reels the audience in, but he lingers on each scene like it’s his last and stretches even the most inconsequential scene into infinity.  Had he had the cajones to hack off a subplot or two (like Plainview’s shady long lost brother), There Will Be Blood could’ve rivaled Anderson’s previous outings. 


The film’s biggest asset, Day-Lewis is ultimately it’s biggest deterrent.  Oh he’s terrific, and his performance has Oscar written all over it.  In fact, even though the flick isn’t so hot, I’d still encourage you to spend $8 on a ticket just to see him strut his stuff.  The problem is that no one else in the cast comes close to matching him.  He easily blows everybody off the screen, and because he does so, it leaves him with no one to play off of.  If you ask me, he would’ve been better off doing a one man show.  


Take Dano for instance.  He isn’t a bad actor, but we’ve seen his character played out dozens of times before, and done a lot better.  He’s way too young to effectively portray a fire and brimstone faith healer, and his performance sometimes lapses into parody.  Come to think of it, he gets pretty annoying at times, and you’ll wonder why the heck it ever took Daniel 150 minutes to bash his brains in. 


Well, even if most of the movie is a bust, you can still savor Daniel Day-Lewis’ amazing work.  Luckily for the audience, Anderson gives him a lot of juicy lines to feast on; my favorite being, “You’re just the afterbirth that slithered out of your mother’s filth!”