In the Beginning there was the Method, and Daniel-Day-Lewis was in it, and it was good. Very few actors in this day and age of the Disney-fied Hollywood blockbuster wrap themselves in their characters the way that Daniel Day-Lewis does – greasy hands, snot and spittle flying everywhere, carrying what appears to be a corneal infection — he IS Daniel Plainview. Starting off in my memory with the amazing film My Left Foot (which won him the Oscar), Lewis has made a career out of these full-contact portrayals. Most notorious to recent moviegoers was his 2002 comeback as Bill the Butcher in Scorsese’s The Gangs of New York, which earned Lewis another Oscar nomination.
There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, has gotten rave reviews, most recently earning the Best Picture nod from the National Society of Film Critics. It is currently at 89% on the Tomatometer, which I was suprised about before I saw the movie this last Thursday. After seeing it, I agree with the Tomatometer: There Will Be Blood is a very good film, with an epic performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, but it is not the best film of 2007. More on that later.
Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com errs, I think, in assigning the the genesis of Anderson’s directorial style for this film to the work of Robert Altman, specifically McCabe and Mrs. Miller. I was reminded of another fantastic director of the same era, Stanley Kubrick. His films Barry Lyndon and The Shining were more of a piece with There Will Be Blood than any of the Altman films. No matter who Anderson is more reminiscent of, this is fine company to keep. It is probable that Paul Thomas Anderson will end up as one of the greats of his generation, if not of all time.
Daniel Day-Lewis should certainly pick up yet another Oscar nomination for his role as Daniel Plainview, and possibly the trophy as well. Anderson has a good case for Best Director. But best film of 2007? That award should go to No Country For Old Men, which I reviewed here. It’s a better film than There Will Be Blood, I think because of the brilliant source material by Cormac McCarthy. Anderson’s story, based loosely upon a work by Upton Sinclair, feels a bit more disjointed, less of a whole effort — again, reminiscent of Barry Lyndon.
Nevertheless, go see this movie. You will not be disappointed.