Oil and religion are two of America's biggest addictions, and both are driving forces in There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's tour de force story of greed and ambition run amok.
The first fifteen minutes feature the film's antihero, young Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis cementing his place as the World's Greatest Actor) digging in the desert for silver. No dialogue mars the scene. There is only Plainview, his mine and his relentless pursuit of what's in the hole. This is cinema at its peak and perhaps the finest opening sequences since Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. Here we get a peek at Plainview and what will follow: a man to whom accidents and injuries are trifles.
As time passes, Plainview's interest turns to oil. Oh, and he scoops up an orphan along the way whom he takes in as a son and a bargaining chip. "I'm a family man," he insists, and towns take the bait, offering him leases on the land with the promise of shared prosperity. Family, as it turns out, is Daniel's greatest weakness. The boy, F.W., played impeccably by Dylan Freasier, is the lone outlet for Daniel's affection. Otherwise he has little use for people, who to him are either expendable tools or obstacles meant to be brushed aside. But watch him bristle when the topic of F.W., who loses his hearing in an explosion, is breached.
It is in the town of Little Boston, during the California gold rush, where Plainview makes the deal that will secure his fortune. He also meets his arch rival, the evangelical healer Eli Sunday (a superb Paul Dano, placid and terrifying). Both hold sway over the town. Both are ambitious. Neither is willing to give in to the other, and their mutual contempt will culminate in a showdown by film's end. Until then, watch oil and evagelicism wreak havok on turn of the century America. Both are on the rise, and There Will Be Blood is a masterful portrayal of the toll both take.
Both the photography and the score highlight the film's physical and spiritual desolation, and the direction is painstaking in every way. But the real centerpiece here is Day-Lewis, whose gruffly amenable veneer barely hides his slimy inner workings. His voice is at once hypnotizing and hateful, and his moustache, his bushy eyebrows and hair seem dripping with the oil he covets.
Nate's McBone rating: 5.0 McBones.
There Will Be Blood is an official McBone Must-See, and a candidate for McBone Movie of the Year.
A McBone movie rundown for 2007
*There Will Be Blood: 5.0. A brutal portrayal of oil and religion run amok.
*No Country for Old Men: 5.0. Anton Chigurh is one of the top villains in movie history.
*Atonement: 4.5. Devastating heartbreak at the hands of a jealous child.
*Charlie Wilson's War: 4.5. Hilarious take on the horrors of American foreign policy.
I Am Legend: 4.0. What could be better than zombies in a post-apocalyptic New York City?
Rendition: 2.5. So-so tale of US torture policy.
The Orphanage: 3.5. Effective but flawed horror film.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: 3.0. Overrated and overacted.
Ratatouille: 4.0. Superb story of a rat with a passion for haute cuisine.
Sweeney Todd: 3.0. My kind of film, but enough with the singing already. God.
Dan in Real Life: 2.5. I hated the family in this movie, but otherwise passable.
The Golden Compass: 3.0. Biggest disappointment of '07.
*Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 4.5. Hey, G.C., this is how fanstasy should be done.
Juno: 3.5. Very well made, but too cutesy. Ellen Page is dynamite.
American Gangster: 3.5. The epic that never reaches those heights.
Fido: 3.0. Delightful little zombie pic the whole family can enjoy.
*Sicko: 4.5. Michael Moore wants to save a country that doesn't want to be saved.
La Mome: 3.0. Ray, Walk the Line...this is the billionth well-acted biopic and I don't want any more for a while.
Superbad: 4.0. Superfunny.
*Darjeeling Limited: 4.0. Wes Anderson is perhaps the best comedy director alive.
Becoming Jane: 2.5. Kind of flimsy and forgettable.
Spider-man 3: 3.0. The weakest of the three movies. Too many villains, but still rather delightful.
Pirates of the Caribbean 3, At World's End: 3.5. Still not as charming as the first, but much better than the second. I love pirates.
The Savages: 3.5. Brilliant and depressing as hell until the feel-good meltdown at the end.
Michael Clayton: 4.5. Most underrated film of the year.
The Kite Runner: 3.5. Beautifully made and acted but ultimately flawed.
* McBone Must-Sees