Okay, so I did it. I went and watched There Will Be Blood. And I have to say I'm underwhelmed.
Oh, it's not a bad movie. Daniel Day-Lewis is every bit as good as I expected him to be (which is very, very good indeed) the rest of the cast does a sterling job, the cinematography is lovely, the direction unexceptionable. It's a little long - some two hours and forty minutes - and feels a bit like a mini-series rather than a film, but for all that it's a fairly gripping watch.
The trouble, I think, was that all the time I was watching it I had this strong sense of deja vu. As though I'd seen this film, or something very like it, a dozen times before. You know the story. Man starts from nothing, makes it big through a combination of hard work and conniving slyness. Ends up alienated and bitter, suspicious of everybody, with no meaningful connection to anyone (Hell, just in case you didn't get it they actually have a dialog in there where he talks about how he sees the worst in everyone). Under the slick, greasy surface of Paul Thomas Anderson's movie is a mish-mash of Citizen Kane, the Godfather and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. That There Will Be Blood bears comparison to these masterpieces (and it does) does it great credit, of course, but it also leaves you feeling 'ah, that again'. It may be that the genre of the 'one man's rise to power' epic needs resurrecting, in which case Anderson has done as good a job of it as anyone could, but personally I can't say I felt it was something we were missing out on, and as a consequence the film left me largely unmoved.
None of this is to say that it's a film I regret watching. Day-Lewis's performance alone would make it worth the price of entry, and the movie certainly has its moments. The church scenes with Paul Dano are sparkling and hilarious, the interplay between Plainview (the character Day-Lewis plays) and his son is superbly done, and the ending is glorious. I just can't help feeling that all that energy and talent could have gone into making something a little more, well, new.