Great performance, disappointing film

There Will Be Blood Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin J O'Connor, Ciarán Hinds; Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson; Cert: 15; 2hrs 38mThere Will Be Blood arrives at our cinemas with just as much fanfare as Juno.

Andrew Clarke

There Will Be Blood Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin J O'Connor, Ciarán Hinds; Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson; Cert: 15; 2hrs 38m

There Will Be Blood arrives at our cinemas with just as much fanfare as Juno. It comes accompanied not so much by the sound of ringing cash registers as with the cheers of learned film critics who have declared this long, drawn out tale of a pioneering oil man to be an instant classic and that Britain's Daniel Day-Lewis is a cast-iron certainty for not only the Best Actor Oscar but the BAFTA and any number of other acting awards this year.

I agree that once again Daniel Day-Lewis gives a brilliant and startling performance and is truly deserving of a Best Actor Oscar and BAFTA but I cannot in my heart of hearts say that this brutal film is truly deserving of any other plaudits. It is most certainly thought-provoking. I have thought about little less since watching it earlier this week but the thought that has pre-occupied my mind is: “Who would surrender three hours of their life and shell-out good money to watch a slow, ponderous, resolutely downbeat movie, about a thoroughly evil and reprehensible individual, that makes absolutely no concessions to its audience?”


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To my mind it is a film designed to win awards, not to appeal to an audience. There is something cynically calculating about it which leaves a nasty taste. There are a lot of well-regarded critics which disagree but I found this a film extremely hard-going and almost impossible to like.

There is a distinct lack of light and shade in this story - even Shakespeare managed to provide a little comic relief in dramas as bleak and dark at Hamlet and King Lear. Despite the lack of any dialogue in the first 20 minutes, the film starts strongly enough but it quickly degenerates into a bleak tale of greed and deception.

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Based loosely on the novel Oil by Upton Sinclair, it follows the obsessive life of Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) a man consumed by hatred and contempt for his fellow man. He is the ultimate loner. A man not only with no friends but wants none either. He is a man who will stop at nothing to put one over on his competitors.

When we first meet him he is working as a silver prospector in the desert at the end of the 19th century. By 1902 he has made the switch to oil and over the next 20 years sets about buying up as much oil-rich land as he can.

He meets his nemesis in an evangelical young preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) who opportunistically sets about to extract as much money as he can from Daniel in order to build his church, The Church of the Third Revelation.

Daniel hates being taken for a ride by anyone - and yet he needs the land - and so there is much resentment built up to be released in the explosive finale.

Paul Dano confusingly also plays Paul Sunday, who may or may not be the same person as Eli Sunday, his twin brother or another schizophrenic personality, Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't explain. There is also a blind alley of a sub-plot which involves Daniel's long-lost brother Henry - who may or may not be telling the truth. Daniel also has an incredibly ambivalent relationship with his son which doesn't

Alfred Hitchcock said that an audience wondering about what is going on or who people are, are an audience who aren't connecting with a film. They are outside the action and this is an apt description for much of There Will Be Blood.

I'm glad I have seen it but I am equally pleased that I didn't have to pay or ever see it again.

**

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