There Will Be Blood (US - BD RA)
Gabe casts out the unclean spirit of his original DVD, and embraces 1080p...
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for visiting with us this evening. Now, I've travelled across half our state to be here and to see about this land. Now, I daresay some of you might have heard some of the more extravagant rumours about what my plans are; I just thought you'd like to hear it from me. This is the face. There's no great mystery. I'm an oilman, ladies and gentlemen. I have numerous concerns spread across this state. I have many wells flowing at many thousand barrels per day. I like to think of myself as an oilman. As an oilman, I hope that you'll forgive just good old-fashioned plain speaking. Now, this work that we do is very much a family enterprise—I work side by side with my wonderful son, H.W., I think one or two of you might have met him already.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most significant directors of his generation, and has successfully staked this claim for some time. But like contemporaries David Fincher, Spike Jonze, and Quentin Tarantino, Anderson’s output has totalled only a mere handful of films, not enough to fully judge his skills. His first film, Hard Eight (a.k.a. Sydney), suffered studio influence, and is apparently not quite the film the then first time director intended, though even the mangled version of the film did predominately display Anderson’s skills at moving the camera. Boogie Nights and Magnolia stand as obviously better samples of Anderson’s writing and directing skills, and should both be counted as full-on modern classics.
Anderson’s next film, Punch Drunk Love, would mark a needed break in style, but it never felt like the next step in the correct direction. Boogie Nights and Magnolia are companion pieces, woven from the fabric of Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese and (of course) Robert Altman. Punch Drunk Love, a fine film, easily the best thing Adam Sandler’s ever been attached to, was a fluff piece in comparison. Anderson was marking time, experimenting with more easily manageable material, just like David Fincher did with Panic Room between the master works of Fight Club and Zodiac. Anderson needed the film that would stamp him permanently in the minds of possible detractors.
Boogie Nights and Magnolia are still, and will likely always be two of my all time favourite motion pictures, but in comparison, the grandeur of There Will Be Blood is more than just a step for the director, it’s a quantum leap. Anderson’s early assets brightly displayed, but beyond this the growth is simply extraordinary. To tell the dark and angling story of Daniel Plainview Anderson forgoes most of his Scorsese inspired camera movement, his rhythmic and flashy editing, and penchant for acquired period music. He also ditches the Altmanesque interwoven story arcs, in favour of needlepoint focus. The idol worship comparisons are still there to be made, as the film takes a Taxi Driver-esque glare into the abyss, along with memories of Altman’s graceful journeys into the West, but the structural uproot is a revolution for Anderson.
There Will Be Blood is a studious look at a solitary man shot slowly, edited softly, and scored more originally than any film in recent memory. It can’t be compared it to the work of Scorsese, Altman or Lumet, because of this focus and these slightly terrifying tweaks There Will Be Blood comes off as an homage to Stanley Kubrick. Of all the films in all the world the one that struck me as sharing the most in common with There Will Be Blood is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both films open with a long and wordless sequence of plot crafting events, and both these opening sequences would’ve been deemed unnecessary by most popular filmmakers. Plainview’s gold prospecting to oil prospecting journey also shares themes with early man’s discovery of violence. Both films also cut casually through large expanses of time without much regard for standard editing conventions (an effect Ang Lee utilized for Brokeback Mountain).
Anderson’s absorption of Westerns and other period pieces is admirable, as he deftly quotes John Ford, John Huston and Sergio Leone with a grace other filmmakers of his generation could only dream of. And unlike so many of his peers and idols Anderson writes his own material, though in this particular dramatic change in style can be partially attributed to adaptation (I haven’t read Upton Sinclair’s novel ‘Oil!’), and at least half of the main character belongs to Anderson’s actor. Daniel Day Lewis’ towering performance is one part John Huston’s Noah Cross, a pinch of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle, and a fistful of Lewis’ own Bill Cutting, and he earned every bit of that little golden man that’s now sitting on his mantel. There are dozens of other characters filling out the film, but PTA mostly avoids revisiting his past affection for ensemble pieces, fixating almost every one of the two hours and thirty eight minutes on either Plainview or his weasely nemesis Eli Sunday, played with disgusting relish by Paul Dano.
So I’m sitting here, re-watching the film as I write this and struggling to find something wrong with this new high definition image. I’m convinced I’m missing something. It can’t look this good. I’m going to read someone else’s review and realize I missed something grave and obvious, I just know it.
Robert Elswit’s award winning cinematography regains all that detailed grandeur that was lost in standard definition. The grit of the sand caked plains is available in every frame, and in even the deepest, darkness shots, featuring the blackest oil and sharpest shadows; Elswit and Anderson’s intended details are not lost. Colours are balanced, well separated and natural, though some skin tones are still a tiny bit red. There is some grainy noise in the bluish night skies for those looking very closely, but that’s about all you’ll find to complain about. And best of all, that pesky edge enhancement is all but gone.
You know what really sold it for me? The beginning of the film is already spectacular, with that almost three-dimensional property that good Hi-Def transfers can get, but it wasn’t this amazing detail and brightness that really got me, it’s the sheet of paper Daniel signs when we gets paid for his batch of gold. In gruelling close-up every fibre of the page is crystalline, and unlike the sort of washy DVD release there isn’t a lick of edge noise or enhancement around the sharp black lines of Plainview’s signature. Right here my mind was blown and only minutes into the film.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s use of period music in Boogie Nights became legend, his work with Aimee Mann on Magnolia was quite inspired, and Punch Drunk Love, being a lighter film, was a slightly more traditional in its musical approach. Jonny Greenwood’s music is a practical antithesis to every musical direction taken by Anderson in the past. His score (only his second full theatrical score) seems to represent the demented inner working of Daniel Plainview’s angry mind. The almost entirely string based score (there is some percussion, though most of it is based on the pounding of string based instruments) is authentically terrifying, playing against almost every expectation driven into our heads by a century of film music. Greenwood and Anderson could’ve gone the Ennio Moricone or Max Steiner rout, but they rubbed brilliantly against the grain with this Bernard Hermann-esque fright house offering.
Everything I said about the original Dolby Digital 5.1 track that accompanied the DVD release remains true here, but the lack of DVD compression ensures a little extra punch to everything. The track is effectively splits its attention between Greenwood’s score and the actor’s full-bodied dialogue. Most of Anderson’s set pieces are relatively quiet, only to smack the audience with the painful punch of a falling scaffold or exploding stick of dynamite. Only the scene in which the new well bursts into flames is particularly sound effect heavy, and though the explosions are quite loud, even this sequence is precise and sparing audibly.
There are no new features on this Blu-ray disc, which is a bummer for those of us expecting more out of a second release. The extras are, however, presented in full HD, so that’s something.
‘15 Minutes’ is a literally fifteen minute long jumble of photo research and scenes from The Story of Petroleum compared to moments from the film set to Greenwood’s music. It’s nice to compare, but I’d really prefer some kind of commentary by Anderson during the jumble.
There are two deleted scenes, strangely not presented as deleted scenes, but simple as ‘The Fishing Sequence’ and ‘Haircut/Interrupted Hymm’. The first is a really interesting cut because it adds something to the characters (quite a bit actually), and more importantly, the audience’s knowledge of drilling process. The scene is completely finished, with score and full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, and it runs a solid six minutes. ‘Haircut/Interrupted Hymm’ is more of a series of emotional beats that were already stated through other means in the final film. It is not presented in finished 5.1.
‘Dailies Gone Wild’ is an alternate take on the ‘diner scene’ towards the end of the film when a drunken Daniel Plainview re-confronts one of the men from Standard Oil. The version that ended up in the film is quite a bit more menacing, and better sets up the gruesomely funny final scene. The trailers are great, especially the nerve jangling full trailer.
The Story of Petroleum is a silent film made in 1923 to describe the oiling process in layman’s terms. It’s actually a very educational little documentary, complete with animated diagrams, and full on-screen descriptions of every important part of the drilling and pipelining process. Because it is silent the short has been set to the sounds of Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood score. The film runs about twenty-five minutes.
The movie is still fantastic, and we can’t go wrong with this 1080p Blu-ray transfer, which is simply one of the best I’ve ever seen, but there’s nothing new to the extra features. I’m still sort of expecting a more elaborate release some day down the line, but the possibility is looking a little more unlikely. Even without an added bevy of new material There Will Be Blood still manages to garner ‘must buy’ status.
* Note: The Images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 3rd June 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English HoH, French, and Spanish
Extras: 15 Minutes, Dailies Gone Wild, Deleted Scenes, 'The Story of Petroleum'
Easter Egg: No
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O'Connor, Jacob Stringer, Matthew Braden Stringer, Ciarán Hinds
Length: 158 minutes