Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Movie Review: There Will Be Blood.

“Never for an instant does it whirl along on wings of epic élan; generally it just bumps along from scene to ponderous scene on the square wheels of exposition.”

--Time magazine on Cleopatra.

There Will Be Blood doesn’t quite deserve this indictment. However, parts apply.

First, it's ponderous. The first 14 minutes bump along without any dialogue. However, like Castaway, this speaking silence allows the lead actor to audition for the Academy Award(tm).

Mission accomplished. This role yielded yet another Oscar(tm) nod for Daniel Day-Lewis. On the strengh of Mr. Day-Lewis' reputation, I saw this film before the nominations were announced. He doesn't do many movies, and when he does, he seizes for the proverbial brass ring. Maybe a victim of high expectations, but count me a critic or contrarian: I think his best thespian work lies elsewhere. For examples: Last of the Mohicans, In the Name of the Father, or Gangs of New York.

This film is like a symphony with some excellent components, but yielding an overall cacophany. In a symphony, for example, you can find virtuosos in the strings, geniuses in the winds, but something doesn't quite sound right. Here, there is no doubting the estimable skills of Mr. Day-Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson. Moreover, the story--a star itself--intelligently examines in the context of an oil baron around the turn of the last century multiple metaphors of "blood," such as familial relationships, the "blood of the lamb" (as in religion), sanguinary violence, and the lust for "life-blood" otherwise known as money.

However, the ultimate test in Hollywood is, "Does it work?"

Regrettably, it doesn't. Consuming over two and one half hours, the movie indulges the geniuses before and behind the camera without ultimate benefit. There's no getting around the fact that breaking down the movie into its constituent parts will allow, like Mr. Day-Lewis' character Daniel Plainview, the mining of gems. However, after putting those parts together, it just didn't work for me.

Labels: , ,