I had so been looking forward to this movie and had to bide my time to see it.
However, on a wet Monday afternoon in Glasgow my chance arrived.
PT Anderson is right up there among my favourite directors of all time with Magnolia in my top 5 films, ever! News of Daniel Day Lewis’ performance and his (as it turns out justified) favouritism for the Best Actor Oscar only added to my anticipation.
The film’s position as No. 23 EVER on IMDb’s review list (my filmic bible) meant it had to be a total classic.
So I’m afriad I have to beg to differ.
Whilst much of it amazes there is just too much indulgence in this movie. The first 20 minutes when, famously, not a word is uttered feels to me like film wank. It is overlong as well and I felt the cinematography failed to reach the top drawer; it’s simply too dark in places.
The theme of greed is interesting but it feels a bit derivative of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – the famous book of the 50’s – although I gather the inspiration was drawn from a little known novel called ‘Oil’. And there are rather too many moments where Daniel Plainview played, mostly magnificently, by Daniel Day Lewis, is symbolised as the Devil incarnate sheathed in shards of flame and plumes of smoke. OK PT, we get it…
The context in which this greed is acted out is Oil Boom America (the first third of the last century). It centres around an oil prospector’s run ins with an unnamed fundamentalist Christian outback church.
The parallels between Bush and Iraq are not difficult to see.
Whilst the congregation may be innocent worshippers, the relationship between the young pastor (Dano) and Plainview, is the real axis of the movie and it meets with mixed results. Partly because Dano’s performance is not 100% convincing. Close, but no cigar.
Indeed the denoument was, I thought, verging on the absurd.
Daniel Day Lewis’ descent into madness is well observed and he manages to avoid the excesses of Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. However, having seen most of the big movies of the year his was probably the best male lead performance – although I felt Ellen Page in Juno and Javier Bardem in A Country For Old Men were better, purer, more believable constructs.
Which brings me to my final point. The Coen’s movie beats it hand down on every level except for the score, which is stunning.
Jonny Greenwood was responsible and this is the standout moment…
Verdict? 7/10. (Still an A in old money, but I was expecting a straight 10)