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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » February 20, 2008
Film review
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There Will Be Blood
February 20, 2008 By Witold Żygulski   
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Director Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights) leaves the viewer cold with his latest effort, There Will Be Blood, despite its whopping eight Academy Award nominations, more than any other movie this year. Neither the stunning cinematography nor Daniel Day-Lewis's sterling performance can atone for the monotonous script, the dearth of on-screen action or for taking up two-and-a-half hours of viewers' lives.

There Will Be Blood opens with a 11-minute scene with the camera tracking a lonely man in the American wilderness laboring his way down a shallow excavation shaft once used by silver miners. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis-My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, The Last of the Mohicans) has the demeanor of a man at odds with the world. Later on, he will confess in a moment of sincerity: "I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people... I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone." The combined impulses of greed and hatred, we learn, are his driving force.

There Will Be Blood drags on for 158 minutes and Day-Lewis is present in all but a handful. Day-Lewis picked up one of his three Oscar nominations in 2002 for his portrayal of William "The Butcher" Cutting in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York and he has managed to get a fourth one this year by once again playing an irresistibly fascinating character provoking strong, negative emotions. This year's nomination was a no-brainer given his domination over the entire movie.

Plainview is a mega-bucks-obsessed geologist who starts out as an unsuccessful silver miner before stumbling onto oil deposits. Fast forward a few years and several highly profitable oil rigs have made him rich but have not tempered his greed in the slightest. One day, Plainview learns from a mysterious young Californian that oil springs up spontaneously after earthquakes back home. He hits the road and makes off for the Golden State to inveigle land from poverty stricken ranchers. Come the oil boom and Plainview is calling the shots to the large oil companies. The canny loner even beats them to the punch by laying his own pipeline.

Plainview's only real opponent is a self-styled preacher who delights in the name Eli Sunday (Paul Dano-Little Miss Sunshine, Fast Food Nation), the leader of a small congregation called the Church of the Third Revelation. For inexplicable reasons, this somewhat hysterical young man, who resembles a hawker of cheap goods, wins the hearts and souls of local villagers, old people in particular, which causes problems for Plainview's business. But like the oil tycoon, Sunday cares mainly about money.

The clash between these two strong characters was supposed to be pivotal to There Will Be Blood, but Dano is no match for Day-Lewis. This is another problem for the movie: the performance of the principal character completely overwhelms all the other actors.
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