Film Review: There Will Be Blood
How much of what we perceive as great acting comes from our previous knowledge of the actor? Should we be truly shocked that Brits and Australians and the Irish regularly dominate the Academy Award nominations for acting? Would that it could be possible to juxtapose Daniel Day-Lewis with an American in There Will Be Blood - would we feel as strongly about his performance knowing that the accent used isn't much of a stretch? These are but some of the thoughts that ran through my mind after seeing Paul Thomas Anderson's latest. Make no mistake, Daniel Day-Lewis is a force to be reckoned with; I just wonder, if he made eight films in 10 years rather than four, or was from Kansas rather than London, would we think less of his performance? Also, how much influence is thrust upon us by the tales of his immersion into the characters that he plays? Looking as objectively as I can, in the end, the answers I come up with to all these questions tell me that we most likely would feel the same way, that we would be no less impressed by the performances given had they been done in his native tongue (in a manner of speaking) or were done with no preparation. But that's not to say that the media and the facts don't color our perception. It's hard to see that it matters much in this case. Simply put, Day-Lewis owns the screen, whether in a fit of rage or silent as a mouse. He's given plenty of meat to chew on - Daniel Plainview will be compared by many (for years to come) as a character in line with Citizen Kane, all ambition and greed, with no time for the concerns of the common man, and even a distaste for them. There is no end to his determination, and he uses the smallest slight against him, just as Michael Jordan once did, seeing insults where there were none and thus fueling his fire that much more. What's most impressive is that Day-Lewis does not rely upon demonstrative histrionics to show us all this; it's right there in his eyes the entire time. Somewhat unfairly lost in all this is the show put on by Paul Dano. In what is essentially the story of two men and their separate but mirrored quests for their personal goals, Dano (all of 23 years old) and his character, stand toe-to-toe against Plainview/Day-Lewis, and will no doubt cement himself as a standout actor of his generation based solely on this film. Other aspects of the film shine just as bright as the actors, from the cinematography (sure to give No Country for Old Men a run for the Oscar) to the out-there score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. It ratchets up the tension the entire time, leaving you almost gasping for what will come next (though it reminded Mrs. Fletch too much of the music heard in Lost). It's the kind of unorthodox thinking that has made Paul Thomas Anderson the director that he is, using a thoroughly modern, almost Philip Glass-like score for such an old West tale. Stepping outside his realm as well, Anderson has produced an American classic, in scope and execution, and seemingly unreliant on today's cinematic tools. Everything in the film (which is set in the early 1900s, mostly) seems absolutely authentic, from the oil fires to the details of a house. (Of course, the inclusion of Method man Day-Lewis doesn't hurt here; early on, when his character injures himself pretty badly, I was convinced that Day-Lewis enacted the same pain upon himself that his character felt, just so that he could get it right.) It's as if it was filmed in 1911 with today's tools and transported to our time for our enjoyment, giving us a lesson in American History along the way.
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