This dark and somber film by Paul Thomas Anderson is a masterful exploration of capitalism, greed, and its effect on mankind.  Daniel Day-Lewis gives what could be one of the greatest performances of the decade, if not all-time.  It’s a long, slow-paced film, but man is it worth the watch.

The Good

Daniel Day-Lewis’ Larger than Life Performance


Every decade or so we can look back and find a truly masterful performance that stands high above the rest, and Daniel Day-Lewis gave us a monumental one here.  DDL plays Daniel Plainview, a driven prospector (or “oil man”) and we follow his destructive path of greed over the span of his career.  This performance is very dark, brutish, and kind of hard to watch at times as we see this character descend into madness.  I was genuinely taken aback at times watching him move further and further away from his humanity in pursuit of success.

Day-Lewis always fully commits to his roles and this was no exception.  Everything from his voice, his posture, and his mindset is superbly thought out and executed.  I did not see Daniel Day-Lewis during this film, only Daniel Plainview.  If there was ever doubt that Day-Lewis isn’t one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema, this performance put the last nail in that coffin.

Beautiful Cinematography


Even if the movie is moving a little slow for your taste, you can still feast your eyes on the gorgeous imagery in this film.  Paul Thomas Anderson and Robert Elswit have crafted some stunning wide, sweeping shots of the barren desert landscape.  The lighting often times has a role to play in showing Daniel’s mental state, as well as plays a part in drawing parallels between religion and capitalism within the story.  This is an exceptionally well shot film and may be the only joyful part of watching it.

A Brilliant Character Study


This film has a few different themes that are explored brilliantly.  These mainly being the true nature and exploitation of what capitalism can be, as well as greed and its effects on man, and the insanity that emerges from these two things in Daniel’s life.  As I’ve said before, this movie gets harder and harder to watch as the it goes on.  We’re forced to watch Daniel squeeze every last bit of his humanity from his soul in pursuit of success over his competition.  He is a mastermind of business and manipulation, and this competitiveness slowly drives everyone who is remotely close to him away as they realize just how tyrannical he has become.  It’s a tough film to sit through, but man is it executed perfectly.

The Bad

The Definition of a Slow Burn


This movie is almost 3 hours long and isn’t exactly one you’d classify as a popcorn munching, entertainment-filled blockbuster.  While there are certainly some white-knuckle scenes hidden in here, there are a few long spans of time where things just sort of happen…and slowly.  Everything in this film works towards developing Plainview’s character, but the scenes of business planning and negotiation have a lot of potential to make people check their watch now and then.

A Very Experimental Score


I’m all about new and innovative ways to tell a story, and the soundtrack is definitely an area where this can be utilized the most, but in this film I’m not so sure it worked well.  Paul Thomas Anderson definitely took a few pages from Kubrick’s book in this film, the soundtrack being one of them, in that the score doesn’t always match what’s happening in the scene.  It got to be a little distracting at times, especially in the scene pictured above.  This isn’t by any means a bad OST, but I do question how it was actually scored to the film.

The Tally

Performances: 5/5

  • Daniel Day-Lewis gives what could be the best performance of the last decade.
  • Paul Dano also shines in this film as a man also secretively pursuing wealth by exploiting others, and he may get under your skin maybe as much as Plainview.

Direction: 5/5

  • This is a true masterpiece of filmmaking, and is an instant American classic.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson gives us the best work of his career here.
  • This story is told in such a real and gritty manner, and PTA leads these incredible actors to some of the best work I’ve seen.

Production: 5/5

  • The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and plays into the themes of the movie.
  • Visual effects melt seamlessly into this film.
  • A very convincing period piece.  Nothing seems out place.

Writing: 5/5

  • While I have not the read the book that this film is based off of, the material here is very well written and executed.
  • Plenty of a fantastic dialogue and tension within the story.
  • Sets a new standard of character study films in cinema.

Score: 3/5

  • The score itself is not by any means bad and services some areas of the movie well.
  • Other areas however seem out of place and very distracting.

Entertainment: 4/5

  • If you appreciate incredible performance and tremendous filmmaking, then this is a movie that you can really sink in to.
  • The film can be really hard to watch at times, but that is the nature of the film itself.
  • It’s a slow burn, and a very long one at that, so beware!

Total Score: 27/30

Final Score: 9/10

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Had No Country for Old Men not come out the same year, this would be your Best Picture winner of 2007.  Seriously, if you enjoy great acting and have a few hours of spare time, this film will not disappoint.