There Will Be Blood

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Posted January 3, 2008 in Film

With a title like that, you’re waiting for the promised great red flood with all the tenuous patience of a kindergartener wondering if there really is a monster at the end of Grover’s book. Cineastes have been biting their nails for five years anticipating Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film and he milks their need in a flick that could have been almost as good at half the length. But this is Anderson’s attempt at Citizen Kane, his nasty, brutish, and long character study of one of those American entrepreneurs who made our country what it is—for better and worse. Daniel Day Lewis is oilman Daniel Plainview, a sinewy jackal with a nice suit and posh accent that’s at once sonorous, hearty, and clipped, exactly how Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags would sound if he berated you for not buying Baltic Avenue. Traveling about rural Texas at the turn of the century with his grave son H.W. (Dillon Freasier), he introduces himself to the small towns as a “plain-speaking man,” which, like everything else that comes out of his mouth, is a lie. Daniel’s as rabid for oil as that rabbit is for Trix. And we’re certain he’ll get his fill even before we see him decades later rattling about his own Xanadu with his gnarled hands still stained gray from the bubbling crude. He’s also one of the best characters in cinema this year, though Anderson keeps that buried for the film’s entire first hour which is mainly just dialogue-free shots of prospecting, drilling, and Plainview proving he’s a tenacious S.O.B, all drowned out by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead’s intrusive score that takes inspiration from whining hornets and blowhard cannons. The heart of the film is supposed to be in Daniel’s scenes with his increasingly estranged son; however, the moments that linger long after you’ve left the theater and forgotten how damned tedious the whole thing was are with Paul Dano’s smug, moon-faced preacher—the only man in the state as maniacally stubborn as Plainview—who, while exorcising a woman’s demonic arthritis sputters to the devil, “If I have teeth, I will bite you . . . and if I have no teeth, I will gum you!” (Amy Nicholson)


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