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quietearth [Celluloid 01.14.08] movie review drama

Year: 2007
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson & Upton Sinclair
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: quietearth
Rating: 8.9 out of 10

Having seen the amount of press this has garnered, my expectations for this were very high. I really don't like walking into a film like this, but luckily the runtime is a hefty 158 minutes, which also presented another difficulty: I hate going to the theater and have problems sitting still. Fortunately, the movie was enthralling, to say the least, and the Mayan Theater in Denver where I took it all in had a pretty well behaved crowd. Did it live up to it's expectations? Let's say this, if you haven't seen this and you don't want to be tainted by someone else's opinion stop reading and go see it.

If you're still reading this and you haven't seen it, you're probably wondering what the essence of the film is. We can simply say that it's about an oilman, greed, and to some extent, dishonesty, and it could be enjoyed simply on this level, it is that well done. I think PT Anderson adapted this story with Daniel Day-Lewis in mind as the lead because the entire film was character driven, and only of one character, that of Daniel himself. The other people in the film, like his son, came and went only to provide part of the storyline.

On a deeper level, it felt like a window into the past, part of something the side of which we don't get to see. It was a story, and the screen let us see it, the fact that Daniel grew more paranoid, and possibly mad, with his fortune, felt only incidental. It just happened. Explaining this is not something I can find the words for, but the detachment between me and the the main character was complete, I had no empathy for, or emotional investment in him.

The film does not have dialog for the first 10 minutes or longer. It starts off with Daniel prospecting for gold. After hurting his leg in a fall, he crawls into town and cashes in some of what he found. With a couple of folks joining him, he strikes oil in the same hole and his business grows from there. Around this time a baby is seen being taken care of by one of the members of the work crew, yet after dying, somehow ends up being Daniel's son.

He moves forward with his business, adding more wells, and at one point is approached by a young man who states he knows where a large amount of oil is, he's just looking for a quick payout for the information. After some wrangling Daniel agrees, pays the kid, and heads off with his son in search of black gold. This is where we first get an overt taste of his dishonesty because he uses the guise of quail hunting to prospect. He attempts bartering with the poor local goat raising family for their land and gets his first taste of the difficulties that lie ahead for him in this area. That being the son Eli who is the town preacher.

Daniel has a massive oil drill built and sets things in motion, with the seemingly alternate storyline of the preachers son which implies to the viewer Daniel is a man of considerable disgust. This point might be of some debate, but I wondered if this overt implication of sin coming from the faithful was designed to show some inner turmoil within Daniel? The music throughout the entire film would fit this assumption as it's strained and frenzied. Do we ever get a glimpse inside the man? No, but we don't need it.

Instead our protagonist grows richer and more irrational, threatening a contemporary in public and killing a man. His drinking also worsens, I could almost smell the whiskey the further the movie progressed. But that's enough about the storyline, let's just say even though I haven't read the book I think PT Anderson probably tried to cram the entire thing into the screenplay and did a great job of it.

Now for the cinematography. While well done, was nothing special. It reminded me of an old 1950's B&W film with stationary shots that let the scene play out before the camera. It was satisfying in the way that while watching a Hollywood movie they use too many cut-scenes and you wonder what happened to the character between two points in time? I think this is part of the reason it's so long, and I'm glad I got to see the full version before it gets butchered to tv runtime length.

I have to give this film an 8.9 out of 10, only because a 9 rating would mean a top 100 position. In time it may prove itself to be worthy of this stature, but regardless it's more then worth driving an hour to sit through 2 hours and 38 minutes of one man, Daniel Day-Lewis.

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projectcyclops (12 years ago) Reply

Great review, sums up much of my thoughts about the movie.

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