Who's in It:
Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano
The Basics: The oil man (Lewis) wants money. The preacher (Dano) wants money, too. And they both want power over the other. So they square off and do battle in this epic about corporate and spiritual insanity. They spend decades maneuvering around each other in a fight to the finish, a living demonstration that greed, envy, brutality and religious charlatanism will always be with us.
What's the Deal? I'm very glad that director P.T. Anderson has decided to leave the San Fernando Valley for this film. I go there all the time, and I never meet the porn stars or experience the biblical revelations found in his films. It's just where IKEA is. So his expanded vision of the struggle between evil and more evil is like someone saving the good stuff for later. This is the best movie he's ever made, and if you're not a huge fan of his, then that might not be enough praise. It's one of the best movies anyone's made all year. It's long and sprawling and earns the right to be that.
The Moral: Another trick it pulls out of its hat is the bold assertion that business and organized religion are equally immoral. It has the nerve to assume that everyone already knows this deep down inside, and so it goes about presenting people who don't exaggerate to make the point. Nothing bonks you over the head to find its way in. Meanwhile, it's set at the turn of the 20th century, but Paul Dano (the sullen teen son in Little Miss Sunshine) is the kind of preacher you can see or hear anywhere, even today, without much translation needed for modernity's sake. And Lewis' oil baron only needs an Armani suit to bring him up to date.
Hate Daniel Day-Lewis? It's easy to do. I've done it for years. I'm just not into it when I think an actor is doing a lot of research and method and heavy lifting. And I always think Day-Lewis is doing that. Him and Sean Penn. Drives me nuts. So all of that to say that he's broken though something and finally made me forget I was watching the Great Thespian Daniel Day-Lewis Acting Up a Tornado. He simply is this awful do-anything-to-anyone-for-a-buck character. And weirder? I ended up rooting for him by the end, when he's the most absolutely evil.
Other Cool Weird Touches: The first 15 to 20 minutes are almost dialogue free, just showing instead of telling. And the score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood is almost frightening in places and the perfect accompaniment to this amazing movie.