Now that it’s opening in wider release, we wanted to take a look at the year’s more difficult most accoladed film, or, specifically, its conclusion. When we were watching "There Will Be Blood," we couldn’t keep our mind off how we’d write about it â€” something we’ve yet to be able to do â€” because it’s so rich and deranged and resistant to distillation into text. There have been plenty of excellent points made about the film, but nothing yet that’s quite encapsulated our own feelings toward it. The ending, which is either ridiculous or brilliant, but certainly crazy, is an easy point of focus â€” even those who loved the film are divided â€” so here’s a look at the range of critical opinion on it:
David Edelstein, New York:
There is blood, and when it comes itâ€™s shocking and
absurdâ€”more grotesque than the end of Sergio Leoneâ€™s Once Upon a Time
in America, in which the corrupted businessman ends up squashed in the
back of a garbage truck. Itâ€™s Punch-and-Judy time in a private bowling
alley, an ignominious finish to an age-old struggle.
Reportedly, some preview audiences laughed derisively at the ending.
I was agog. The movie doesnâ€™t need a somber finaleâ€”it needs something
go-for-broke batshit crazy as a counterpoint to the early, mythic
images of tall, gushing wells.
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:
It has scenes of terror and poignancy, scenes of ruthless chicanery,
scenes awesome for their scope, moments echoing with whispers and an
ending that in some peculiar way this material demands, because it
could not conclude on an appropriate note — there has been nothing
appropriate about it. Those who hate the ending, and there may be many,
might be asked to dictate a different one. Something bittersweet,
perhaps? Grandly tragic? Only madness can supply a termination for this
J. Hoberman, Village Voice:
overturn the narrative: The last 20 minutes are as shocking in their
way as the plague that rains from the sky in Magnolia’s finale. By the
time the closing words "There Will Be Blood" appear (with a burst of
Brahms) inscribed in heavy gothic letters on the screen, Anderson’s
movie has come to seem an Old Testament story of cosmic comeuppance and
filicidal madnessâ€”American history glimpsed through the smoke and fire
that the lightning left behind.
Richard Schickel, Time:
It is the genius (and I use that word advisedly) of Daniel Day-Lewis’s
performance to slowly, patiently, show the madness replacing his former
rationalism, to prepare us for the film’s astonishing ending, an ending
one dare not reveal, but that contains what I â€” resistant as I am to
superlatives â€” consider to be the most explosive and unforgettable 10
or 15 minutes of screen acting I have ever witnessed.
Scott Foundas, LA Weekly:
As for those who have claimed that the film goes â€œover the topâ€ in its
final act, set in 1927, it strikes me that the film ends in the way
that it must. Like most stories of kingly men who have vanquished all
challengers to the throne, it culminates in madness.
David Denby, New Yorker:
movie becomes an increasingly violent (and comical) struggle in which
each man humiliates the other, leading to the murderous final scene,
which gushes as far over the top as one of Danielâ€™s wells. The scene is
a mistake, but I think I know why it happened. Anderson started out as
an independent filmmaker, with â€œHard Eightâ€ (1996) and â€œBoogie Nightsâ€
(1997). In â€œBlood,â€ he has taken on central American themes and
established a style of prodigious grandeur. Yet some part of him must
have rebelled against canonization. The last scene is a blast of
defianceâ€”or perhaps of despair. But, like almost everything else in the
movie, itâ€™s astonishing.
Dana Stevens, Slate:
is anchored by two mirror-image scenes of humiliationâ€”Plainview’s takes
place in the church, Eli’s in a bowling alleyâ€”that are simultaneously
harrowing and hilarious. But the bowling-alley showdown, which is also
the last scene of the movie, feels like the director’s one misstep.
It’s so broad, so shamelessly over-the-top, that the movie shifts from
stark Oedipal drama to something like Grand Guignol. On a second
viewing, the ending still bothered me, but a friend made a passionate
case for it over drinks afterward. If nothing else, it’s a choice that
will inspire great conversations.
Stephanie Zacharek, Salon:
That scene has so much dignity that it dwarfs the flashier scenes —
particularly the overplayed, near-screwball ending — that come later.
Armond White, New York Press:
The shabby set-up of Plainview and Eliâ€™s ultimate confrontation in a
bowling alley is so confusing and slapdash that their symbolic
clashâ€”where one forces the other to confess his shallowness and deny
his beliefsâ€”comes across as just secular-progressive prejudice and
loopy, unconvincing drama.
Matt Zoller Seitz, The House Next Door:
"There Will Be Blood" is four-fifths of a near-masterpiece, but that
final section in Daniel’s mansion devolves into a guided tour of
Anderson’s DVD collection. Look: "Giant"! Over there: "The Shining"!
Watch out, "Citizen Kane" coming through! And the climactic tete-a-tete
evokes the worst of "Magnolia" — the Oscar clip shouting and weeping
and fighting, the graduate theater workshop blocking… Daniel Day
Lewis’ highly stylized performance is exquisitely modulated up until
that final stretch, at which point it turns into a cross between John
Huston’s Noah Cross and Popeye the Sailor Man.