The Good Points: Daniel Day-Lewis, the cinematography, Daniel Day-Lewis, the score, Daniel Day-Lewis, the script, Daniel Day-Lewis, the magnificent way that it all just hangs together…
Did I mention Daniel Day-Lewis?
The Bad Points: There are about ten minutes when Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t on the screen – what were they thinking!
Okay, breathless enthusiasm aside about him, I’ll focus on the rest of the film instead. First of all this is simply a must see, yes I know I say that about an awful lot of films, but this is the most exciting piece of cinema for years. From the wordless twenty minute opening in which you learn everything you need to know through to its maddening conclusion it stuns the senses. The closest film I can approximate it to is 2001 – you could watch this without dialogue and still understand the crux of the story.
Indeed, Kubrick is a big influence – the prowling camera is straight out of The Shining whilst the atonal score (by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood) reminds you of the use of Clytus Gootwald in 2001. This is a film about a serious subject (corruption caused by greed) shot as an arthouse horror movie. No shot is wasted, everything is designed to tell you something about the main subject of the film – Daniel Plainview.
Which brings you to that performance. To call it a performance doesn’t do it justice, its more a case of demonic possession writ large. Rarely off screen Day-Lewis turns in something that makes his turn as Bill the Butcher look subdued, all focused around a rolling, sonorous voice half way between Anthony Hopkins and John Huston. Like the fact that you could watch the film with out the dialogue, you could listen to the soundtrack without the images and still feel fulfilled.
And then comes the ending. “I drink your milkshake, I drink it up!” has already entered the lexicon of quotable dialogue amongst those who have seen it. Here the performance is dialed up to eleven and Day-Lewis lets rip with the ferocity of his conviction for the character. Its both maddening and sublime at the same time – in any other context it wouldn’t work but as the end to this film its perfect. The glorious clash of cymbals as the credits begin telling you its okay to leave, its over.
And now the bad news – I’ve really had to hunt for this film in the north west, show times are not designed around those who work and you may need to drive a distance to see it if you aren’t in one of the major cities.
But trust me, its worth it.