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Monday, 10 March 2008

There Will be Blood

An epic character study worthy of comparison to Citizen Kane, this sparse, bleak, and enthralling film has seemingly come out of nowhere. At least, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) has never made anything like it. Much of the credit though belongs to a riveting performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, this film’s central – and in many ways, only – character.

Working a silver mine in America’s south west during the 19th century, Plainview strikes oil and makes his fortune. A co-worker’s accidental death leaves him with an adoptive son, and word of a farm where oil bubbles from the ground leads him to New Boston. His operation brings prosperity to the town – a prosperity that local evangelical preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) believes he’s owed.

Battling Eli, fate, and his own bitter nature, Plainview is an all-too-human monster given ferocious life by Day-Lewis. An amazing, almost horror-movie soundtrack (from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood) only adds to the ominous, driving tone. Blood has flaws: the focus on Plainview shuts out the supporting cast, and the final scene is perhaps a step too far. But what truly memorable film is perfect?

Anthony Morris
(This review appeared in The Big Issue, #297)

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