Saturday, January 12, 2008

Movie Review: There Will Be Blood

Tonight I went with some friends to see the "American epic" film, "There Will Be Blood", starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. Daniel Day-Lewis was just plain amazing, the acting was brilliant, the character was just an absurd human being, and he played it very, very well.

The filming style was very interesting, sometimes really unique and out-of-the-ordinary, such as the actors actually affecting the camera lens at times - there was a dash of oil which hit the camera lens at the beginning of the film, water hits the camera lens at another time as well. Pretty cool. I liked some of the other techniques used, the entire opening of the film had absolutely no dialogue, the first words were spoken maybe only 5 minutes into the film. Pretty interesting way to portray the film. Generally the cinematography was awesome, some beautiful shots at night with silhouettes against the sky with an oil well burning in the background, really, really nicely done there. So artistically, and acting-wise, I think it worked really well.

I have 2 major "beefs" with the film though. The continuity sucked. And man, this made it confuuuuusssing. It was funny, we all talked about it afterwards and some of us took certain things for granted, which others totally didn't understand, and vice-versa. For instance, my friend Yaron and I definitely understood that the little boy's father was killed in the oil mining process, and that DDL's character had to take him on as his own. That seemed obvious to me, even with absolutely no dialogue during the opening parts of the film. On the other hand, I had ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE that Paul Dano was playing 2 different characters, who just so happened to be twin brothers. They never again referred to the 1st brother until right at the end of the film, and the way DDL talked to the 2nd brother made it appear that he was the same person as the first brother. They had different names, but I didn't catch the name of the first brother since he was on screen for literally 1 minute of the entire film. It was a major freakin' plot point, why didn't they make it more clear to the audience?!?!! This was REALLY confusing for me. The 1st brother could easily have had a different haircut, or clothes, or facial hair... SOMETHING to differentiate the two of them! Man, that was confusing. It made some parts of the movie really hard to follow because you couldn't really understand why the 2nd brother was acting in such a way if he knew the information you thought he knew (since I thought he was the same guy as was just on screen.) They handled this situation quite badly, and although they referred to the "2 sons and 2 daughters" of the household, you never saw both brothers in the room at once (since they were played by the same actor), and no photos or discussion of the 1st brother after his brief 1 confusing minute on-screen. Terrible. This was very badly done for a movie that was technically and artistically so good.

A possible explanation for this might be that Paul Dano was asked to play the role of Eli (the 2nd brother) at the last minute:
In an interview on the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," Paul Dano told Gross that he had originally been cast in the much smaller role of Paul Sunday, Eli's brother, and another actor had been cast as Eli. However, after Paul Dano had already started filming his one scene as Paul Sunday, Paul Thomas Anderson decided to replace the actor playing Eli. Anderson then asked Dano to play Eli Sunday (a much bigger role) as well as Paul Sunday, and they decided to change the film to make the brothers identical twins. Anderson asked Dano to play Eli on a Thursday, and filming for the role began four days later, on the next Monday. Daniel Day-Lewis, by contrast, had a whole year to prepare to play Daniel Plainview.
Paul Dano was very good, but it did kindof show that this perhaps was not planned. At least the storyline with the 2 identical twins was very badly explained in my opinion, and they should have been more obvious about it.

So that was my first "beef" with the story. I suppose the 2nd one also has to do with continuity. I understood that DDL's character was terrible and represented fierce no-holds barred capitalism... but the random freak-out at the end of the film seemed really out-of-character, and not really plausible. I know we were supposed to hate him, and I know that we're not supposed to like him for sending his son away, and revealing his apparent "true feelings" for his son... but what the heck is the deal with the last 15 minutes of the film?!?! The turnaround to Paul Dano's character was interesting, and the way he made him uncomfortable in the same way as he had previously been made uncomfortable was very well done and creepy. But even more creepy was the freak-out of DDL's character, and I thought it was pretty unexpected and just plain terrible. The acting was superb and I know we are supposed to hate DDL's character... but it just didn't seem to fit. To me, it really broke me out of the illusion of the film, and I felt like it pushed the characters too far. The dialogue about the straws and the milkshakes was funny, sure, but it seemed way too colloquial and modern to fit in the supposed 1927 timeline. I don't know, maybe I'm analyzing it too much, but I don't think people would have really sounded like that in 1927, and to me it kindof broke the illusion and pulled you out of the story a bit.

Still, glorious acting and well-made film. I just thought the continuity and some key parts of the script could have been a bit better. Not sure if I'd give it the 89% it's got on Rottentomatoes and the 9.0 it's got on IMDB at the moment. DDL deserves an Oscar for his acting, but I think the script and general flow of the film could have been a bit tighter. Also, man was it long! 2 hours and 40 minutes, and so about the same length as Jesse James. But I thought the flow was better in Jesse James, and in this film I definitely felt the story dragging somewhat and I think some tighter timings and pacing may have made for a better final cut. Well done though in terms of the production, that effort was awesome. Just watch this film for DDL's acting, not necessarily the plot.

1 comment:

Pat R said...

finally got to see the infamous There Will Be Blood... Daniel-Day Lewis' performance was top-notch. He takes well to the overbearing, violent father-figure role -- he also did this in Gangs of New York.