Saturday, February 23, 2008
There Will be Blood
There is a book by Upton Sinclair called Oil! that had a major impact on my teenage mind. It told the story of the conquest and development of a small Western American town by an 'oil man.' He's not just an oil man looking for a "sea of oil" below this Western town, no, Daniel Plainview was and is a symbol of the American spirit. But I'm not talking about the good sides of that spirit. I'm talking about the need for conquest, the need to compete, to win. This greed allows those who embrace it to do incredible things, but this greed is also a cancer and you will eventually rot with it dwelling inside you. I loved this book and this 2007 adaptation to the screen is just perfect. It captured the message and feel of the book as so few movies have done for books in the past. It's an old-style movie, with sweeping cinematography and a slow, tense pace. It felt more like Papillion or Once Upon a Time in the West, and less like movies from our present era. The direction creates balanced, well-chosen scenes. John Frisk's production design is amazing and the performances by all involved are simply out of this world good. I am a huge and lifelong fan of Daniel Day-Lewis and loved the last time he and Paul Dano got together in The Ballad of Jack and Rose, but this is truly his best work. To me it felt like Welles or Olivier at their prime. This didn't seem like the performance of modern actors. It's something to behold. This is not an uplifting movie, but it has a message that's more appropriate now than ever. Plus, well, it's just damn well made.