So perhaps for you, like me, this summer’s promise of movie madness hasn’t really lived up to all the hype. Sure, “The Dark Knight Rises” was cool, but not the amazing insanity we had all hoped it would be based on it’s trailer (although is that even really possible?). “Prometheus” was kind of a bust, and the new Bourne one was fun but nothing special, but surely, here now comes a movie that cannot disappoint:
Paul Thomas Anderson–while heralded as a genius from the start by many–has been building towards a new kind of movie that, instead of entertaining us ceaselessly like “Boogie Nights,” or flooring us emotionally like “Magnolia”, sneaks up on us quietly like “There Will Be Blood.”
Here’s a brief example of how Anderson has begun to quietly imply the drama instead of hitting us over the head with it. In the opening scene of “There Will Be Blood” Daniel Day Lewis is down in some pit in some mountain, digging for something with a pick ax. That’s pretty much all we know. Jonny Greenwood’s eerie-as-hell score swirls around us, we see DDL digging at the walls, and eventually he plants a stick of dynamite and lights the fuse. So here we have perhaps one of the most cliche/standard tension building devices. There’s a stick of dynamite, we know it’s going to explode. There’s a fuse we can watch burn till the end. So typically, as the character goes about his/her business, the movie will continually cut back to the fuse as it burns its way down and we watch it get closer and closer and closer to exploding.
In “There Will Be Blood,” we watch the fuse get lit, and that’s the last time we see it. We see DDL climb up this bizarre DIY ladder nailed into the wall of the pit, we see him heave at this pulley system he’s (we’re assuming) made–trying to get his tools out of the hole–and we see him struggle and fail to have the strength to pull his tools up. We know the fuse is burning, we know it must probably be getting close to exploding, but we have no idea what’s going to happen when it does explode (will the tools come flying out? Does DDL need to be farther away?) and we have no idea just how close it is to exploding. Then, when the dynamite finally does blow, we don’t know the fall out of the damage. We are on edge, full of suspense, trying to make sense of the situation. When DDL is climbing down his DIY ladder and one of the planks give way, sending him sprawling backwards into the pit, our suspense and worry proves to be justified, but in a more surprising way than we had imagined.
This is just the first ten minutes or so of the movie.
This unique mix of suspense and surprise that pervades and, in my opinion, makes awesome “There Will Be Blood” seems, based on the trailer, to be present in “The Master” as well. Here’s hoping that Paul Thomas Anderson has found some way to take this mixture and develop it one step further. If nothing else, at least we’ll have another awesome Jonny Greenwood score.