DRAMA; 2hr 38min
STARRING: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dylan Freasier
Digging deep: Day-Lewis
The forging of a mogul takes gruelling labour and steely, unswerving faith. Hard-driven Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) is up for both: as an oil prospector in early 20th century California, his territory is the tinder-dry expanses of untamed and unforgiving land. Shadowed by his attentive young son H.W. (Freasier), the canny adventurer proves bedrock-hard in business, with a mellifluous delivery, a snake-oil salesman’s commanding charm and a calculating strategy progressively directed by greed, suspicion and rage.
Plainview’s grand, juicy history is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love), who takes inspiration from Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! It is austere, sinister, startling and disquieting — sometimes all at once — as Plainview works his way to wealth, locking horns with an insinuating preacher (Dano) all along the way.
Day-Lewis, as per, is mighty in the part, picking the bones of Plainview’s steep descent into alcoholism and disturbance with a fierce, primeval relish. As an actor, the man is a phenomenon, and Plainview in all his intensity and tumult is a towering magnum opus.