So it took me a long while to figure out first, if I liked the movie, second, how much I liked it, and third, why I liked it. End conclusion: I liked it a lot, but I’m still not even sure why, so please excuse the stream of consciousness nature of this post.

As you can tell from some of my other reviews, I kind of like comparing movies to other movies. Except There Will Be Blood is the most original movie I’ve seen in a long while, and the closest comparison I can make is Citizen Kane, which is unfair to both Paul Thomas Anderson and Orson Welles.

From the breathtaking performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, to the full-throttle score by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, nothing about the movie seemed remotely familiar, so there’s a lot to be said in favor of that. The script was slow, methodical, and plodding…but because of the combination of the acting, music, and cinematography, it all seemed apropos. Very little seemed out of place; the only mistake I thought was keeping Dano in the double-role as Eli and Paul Sunday. Not until Dano’s eruption at his father did I finally realize that he wasn’t pretending to be two different brothers and there actually were twin brothers. An avoidable misstep that was unnecessarily confusing.

Even the ending, which I had read was as ambiguous as No Country’s, fit in with the overall structure of the film. I found much of that criticism pretty baseless. Even if you didn’t like it (thought it was over-the-top, too bloody, ridiculous), I can’t see how it could be deemed confusing. It doesn’t get much more finite than bludgeoning your arch-enemy with a bowling pin.

There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe Day-Lewis’ bravura performance. Daniel Plainview, as a lonely cur without a family of his own, used the fake family that he had as a business enterprise; Day-Lewis reveals every intricate layer of Plainview, peeling them off one-by-one as he descends into madness. His Oscar will be well-deserved.

It’s to Dano’s credit that he doesn’t let Day-Lewis’ acting overshadow his own performance. The dual confession scenes (in the church and the bowling alley) were a tête-à-tête that I would have loved to see go on forever. It’s too bad that Dano has such stiff competition this year, with Tom Wilkinson and Javier Bardem in particular, because he embodied the precocious minister. His role was a little bit farce, a little bit ingenuity and Dano balanced them well.

Coen will get credit a nomination for the script…but this was more a movie for awe-inspiring setpieces (the derrick explosion comes immediately to mind) and Daniel Day Lewis. No real criticism, just not the sort of movie I’d recognize for written excellence.

But onto my favorite category, the score. Greenwood is getting well-deserved praise for his score; the opening sequences with ear-splitting dissonance were tough to listen to, but sensible. I can’t even recall the main motif for TWBB, nor any of the character motifs, which is strange considering practically the entire movie was scored. It was the anti-No Country in this sense, which was a film that used silence to its advantage. Here, Greenwood’s score evokes mood, develops character, and does everything else you’d expect. Don’t know if this will be my pick for Best Score yet, but it will be close.

Advertisements