Tag Archives: Daniel Day-Lewis

Gangs of New York (2002) Review

Time: 167 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Amsterdam Vallon
Daniel Day-Lewis as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting
Cameron Diaz as Jenny Everdeane
Jim Broadbent as William “Boss” Tweed
John C. Reilly as Happy Jack Mulraney
Henry Thomas as Johnny Sirocco
Liam Neeson as “Priest” Vallon
Brendan Gleeson as Walter “Monk” McGinn
Director: Martin Scorsese

When his father is killed in New York City, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns in 1863 to hunt down his father’s killer, the ruthless Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). It’s not easy for Amsterdam as gangs roam a corrupt New York City, with Bill Cutting ruling over everyone.

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Gangs of New York was a movie I was curious about re-watching. I remember seeing it many years ago for the first time and liking it, but I didn’t remember a lot about the movie. Whenever I hear about this movie, people seem to either regard it as one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies, or one of his worst. In a lot of my recent reviews where I revisit Scorsese’s filmography, I often talk about how I like the movie more on a second viewing. Gangs of New York is sadly the exception. It’s not a bad movie by any means, I’d even say that it’s rather decent and has a lot going for it, but there are just so many problems that hold it back from being as good as it should’ve and could’ve been.

Gangs of New York is quite ambitious, the idea of the plot and the setting are interesting. The script is written by Jay Cocks, Kenneth Lonergan and Steven Zaillian, and while they are great writers, the writing present in the movie weren’t all that great. There’s a lot of thought put into the gangs and how things are organised in the city, if the movie was focussed a lot more on that it could’ve been even better. However the movie is bogged down with some subplots, mostly focussed on characters that aren’t made to be particularly interesting for the most part. The thing is that you really see potential at points. There are some legitimacy great scenes here, and you can really see what Gangs of New York could’ve been all the way through. The second half still has problems, but it felt a little less messy than the first half, and it focuses up a little more. I think I should probably address the elephant in the room, that being Harvey Weinstein, and all of his interference of the film. Now its not known specifically what changes he made but what we do know is that at an hour was cut out because of him. Some of the weird decisions however I can sort of see him mandating, perhaps in an attempt to be more award friendly (and perhaps that worked, with the movie receiving 10 Oscar nominations, but it still led to a worse movie). If I didn’t know an entire hour was cut out, I’d say that this movie is too long at 2 hours 40 minutes. Most of Scorsese’s longer movies are well paced but this is not one of those cases. With that said, it might’ve actually been better with a longer runtime if it meant a much more complete movie. It really feels like it’s lacking something, it’s a movie that tries so hard to tackle so many themes and to be so many things, but ultimately ends up not being much. On top of that, much of Gangs of New York feels a little too Hollywood, and is a little too grand and operatic for its own good.

If you’re going to watch Gangs of New York for one reason only, it should be for Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, who is outstanding here. This is among his best performances, and knowing Day-Lewis, that’s saying a lot. Any time he was on screen, he made the scenes instantly better. Some people have talked about how Day-Lewis’s performance made everyone else look like they are bad at acting. While I wouldn’t entirely agree, he is working on a totally different level compared to everywhere else in this movie. Gangs of New York marks the first collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio, and as we all know it’s not their last. Though it’s nowhere near his best work, he still gives a solid performance with what is given. However he, like a lot of actors in this movie, have accents that are all over the place, in fact Daniel Day-Lewis and the actual Irish actors are the only people in the cast who don’t have accents that slip up. Still, DiCaprio plays the role reasonably well. Cameron Diaz on the other hand… she doesn’t fair so well. She didn’t fit into the movie well, and I hate to say it but she was rather miscast. In all fairness she wasn’t necessarily terrible, but she did not work in her role. It doesn’t help that the movie focusses so much on a romance between DiCaprio and Diaz, and that just didn’t work at all. Maybe it could’ve worked, but the two actors don’t share any chemistry, and you don’t even see why the two characters would be together. It’s a distraction more than anything. Some of the supporting cast are good, some roles like that played by John C. Reilly could’ve been played by anyone. Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson are among the supporting actors who fare better.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is on showcase in many parts of Gangs of New York. The production design and costumes were handled really well, and the cinematography was really good. This is Scorsese’s most ambitious and large scale movie and you can feel it throughout. I talked much about Weinstein’s interference, and I’m pretty sure that extended to the direction. There are some aspects that don’t work, and I’m just going to assume that he had a part to play in these issues. The editing goes from working really well to being rather choppy, and since this is Thelma Schoonmaker working on the movie, I’m just going to assume that some mandated decisions were made. What comes to mind immediately is the opening battle scene, no idea why it was edited like that. Then there’s the forced narration from Leonardo DiCaprio, definitely one of those instances where the narration doesn’t work at all and is generally used for exposition, though there are some moments that worked fine enough. However there is one aspect that makes me convinced some decisions were mandated by Weinstein. The opening scene features a few notable characters played by the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, John C. Reilly and Brendan Gleeson. After the time jump when it shows the return of these characters from the opening sequence, it briefly cuts a flashback to them in that opening scene to remind the audience, even though anyone paying attention to the early portion would be able to recognise them. It really felt out of place, even though its just a small part of a very long movie, it doesn’t seem like a very Scorsese thing to do, and indicates that not all the decisions were made by him.

Gangs of New York for all its potential doesn’t completely work. There’s still a few movies of Martin Scorsese that I consider worse than this one, but this is definitely his most disappointing. Even putting aside some of the studio interference that no doubt affected quite a lot of the movie, the script has a ton of problems, and the movie operates on such a grandiose level that it doesn’t work as well as it could’ve. However it’s not a movie that I’d dismiss outright. Despite some mandated choices that don’t feel like Scorsese, it’s directed well, there are some scenes that are good, it picks up in the second half, and Daniel Day-Lewis gives an extraordinary performance. So I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

The Age of Innocence (1993) Review

Time: 139 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer
Michelle Pfeiffer as Ellen Olenska
Winona Ryder as May Welland
Director: Martin Scorsese

Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a lawyer who is happily engaged to May (Winona Ryder). His life however turns upside down when he meets and falls in love with May’s scandalous cousin, Ellen (Michelle Pfeiffer).

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I’d been meaning to watch The Age of Innocence for some time, it seemed like it would be something interesting. Sure, it had Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder, but what was interesting to me was Martin Scorsese directing this, a period piece of all things. Not to slam period pieces, and he has occasionally tried different things (New York, New York and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore for instance) but I didn’t know what to expect from him with this. I actually liked it a lot more than I thought, and it really deserves a lot more love than its been receiving.

The Age of Innocence quite a long movie at under 2 hours and 20 minutes, I will admit that I started off watching the movie not really fully invested but it grew on me as it progressed. I think part of my initial problem was the fact that a bunch of information is being thrown at you through narration early on and there’s a lot that you have to know, but after everything was established and set up, I was on board with the movie through to the end. The screenplay from both Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks was really great, you wouldn’t normally think of Scorsese as the right person to take on a story about an upper class affair scandal period piece drama, but he actually fits in very well. The Age of Innocence remains one of his most effectively passionate and emotional films, he’s actually called this his most violent movie, and even though there isn’t a drop of blood, he’s correct. As someone who doesn’t usually watch period pieces (not that I dislike them or anything), I was quite invested in what went on. The ending is also perfect for the film, couldn’t think of a better way to end it.

The talented cast did very well in their roles. Daniel Day-Lewis is really good as per usual, I wouldn’t consider this to be one of his all time best performances, but he’s nonetheless great. Michelle Pfeiffer gives one of the best performances of her career, and Winona Ryder also gives a great and complex performance. There are also some minor supporting performances from the likes of Richard E. Grant and Jonathan Pryce, who don’t leave as strong of an impression but are good enough in their brief roles.

Martin Scorsese did a very good at adapting his directional style to one that works for a period piece, and his work here is once again nothing less than fantastic. It’s a stunning movie, very well shot and edited. Scorsese really captured the time period excellently, and showed off the great production designs, locations and the costumes well. If there’s one aspect of the direction I wasn’t loving, it was all the narration. As time went on, I grew into it, but I remember being put off early on when there was a bunch of exposition and explaining done over voice over. A lot of it was explaining all the characters and while I get that it’s partly necessary with so many characters, it went a little overboard. After everything was established though, I thought the narration was used at the right level.

The Age of Innocence might not be among my favourite of Scorsese’s films, but there’s a lot here to be loved. His direction was outstanding, after the first 30 minutes or so I was invested in this story and the lead characters well enough, and the performances (mainly from Day-Lewis, Pfeiffer and Ryder) are all really great. I’d strongly recommend at least giving it a chance. The more I think about The Age of Innocence, the more I think I’m going to love it the next time I watch it again.

Phantom Thread (2017) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock
Lesley Manville as Cyril Woodcock
Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants, and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.

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Phantom Thread had a lot of talent involved. Not only is this directed by Paul Thomas Anderson but this is Daniel Day-Lewis’s final performance. However I’ll admit I wasn’t really as hyped for it as I wanted to be, I can’t tell if it’s the premise or the trailers but for some reason it really didn’t interest me that much (even though I knew I was going to watch it eventually). Despite my thoughts before going into it, Phantom Thread blew me away on pretty much every level. Paul Thomas Anderson has expertly crafted a meticulous and possibly near perfect film, accompanied and elevated by fantastic performances. It’s one not to miss.

I know that the trailer makes Phantom Thread look like a one note, drawn out movie with not too many surprises, but it’s actually not that at all. As the movie progresses you learn little things about each of these characters that only leads you to become even more interested in the story. It also feels a bit like a mystery thriller without actually being that, it feels rather Hitchcockian at times. I’m not going to spoil what happens, it’s best going into Phantom Thread not knowing too much. All I can say is that its an unconventional romance that is quite unpredictable. This movie is surprisingly funny at times, its not a comedy but it has quite a bit of effective humour. Phantom Thread is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and its quite slowly paced, which can be off putting for some but for me I was interested from start to finish. It is also not for everyone, just like a lot of PTA’s other films, Phantom Thread goes into some areas that may be weird for some but I loved that he went there. This movie is also filled with so much detail that I have a feeling that I’m going to pick things up with repeat viewings.

Saying that Daniel Day-Lewis gave a great performance is kind of redundant, because it’s obvious that he’s going to, but he truly is fantastic here. Unlike some of his other performances like in Lincoln or There Will Be Blood, he looks like himself but yet he transforms so much into this character Reynolds Woodcock. Woodcock is really one of these artists who is so dedicated to his craft who can be very difficult to say the least. As the film goes on you begin to learn more about him as a person. The performance is just so incredibly subtle, layered and nuanced and it really works. You really end up studying his reactions. If this is truly Daniel Day-Lewis’s last performance, then he has gone out on a high note. There are two other performances that shouldn’t be overlooked. One is Vicky Krieps playing the character of Alma. She doesn’t have an easy task, with her playing opposite Daniel Day-Lewis but yet she pulled it off and was incredible. Krieps’s performance is very expressive and external, which balances out DDL’s very subtle performance. There is a lot more to Alma than it initially seems. The relationship and power struggle between the two are the driving forces of the movie and the chemistry between the two actors really helped in making them work effectively. Another great performance is by Lesley Manville as Reynolds’s sister, she is probably the most composed of all the performances yet commands so much presence when she’s on screen, she was great as well. All these three come together to make the movie even better.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction is very fantastic as always, the film is so beautifully shot, lit and directed. There is so much thought put into what’s on screen, and so much detail that could be seen. The production design is great and unsurprisingly the costume design was really great (given that the movie is about a dressmaker). Jonny Greenwood’s score was also great, it beautiful, elegant and haunting and only adds to the movie even more. Everything about Phantom Thread has been polished to perfection.

Phantom Thread was a truly remarkable film. The performances were outstanding, the story was intriguing and unpredictable and Paul Thomas Anderson as usual directs it incredibly well. This film is filled with so much detail that I can see this movie being even better upon repeat viewings. Phantom Thread is one of the best films of 2017 and it is well worth the watch. If you have been waiting a long time to see this, trust me well I say it’s well worth the wait, I’m certain that you won’t be disappointed.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

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There Will Be Blood

Time: 153 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence and content that may disturb
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an oil prospector in the early years of the 20th century. He travelled with his adopted son H.W. to Little Boston, California to dig for oil. Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) is one of a pair of twins who family farm Daniel purchases for the major oil deposit located on it. Eli is a preacher and wants the money from the sale of the property to finance his own church. The tension between these two men grows, as does the greed. This film is loosely based on the 1927 Upton Sinclair novel “Oil!”

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Although the premise may not seem like an interesting movie, somehow this movie manages to be that, and much more. With beautiful cinematography and a perfect performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood is a great movie and is one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s best.

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The story does take its time to progress, it is a drama; it’s also long at 2 hours and 40 minutes. I can’t be sure that everyone who watches this movie will like it; it might not interest some people. I know that not many people would be interested in this movie on its premise alone. Another reason that people might not like this movie is that it is often quite negative. Other than H.W. (the adopted son) there aren’t many people you can relate to in this movie; Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday are particularly bad people. Also, the story mostly follows Daniel Plainview and his interactions with others instead of the main plot and that may disinterest some viewers. The script is really great and the characters are well fleshed out; any script that has a character has complex as Daniel Plainview is great.

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The best part of this movie is the performances, mainly by Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Daniel Plainview; this is one of the most fascinating characters in cinema. He is a character that can’t be summarised in one sentence, only in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. The film follows him nearly the whole time and it’s interesting to see his character as you learn more about him. Plainview is an unstoppable force, filled with greed and ambition and Daniel Day-Lewis was the best actor for this complex role. Not to be overlooked is Paul Dano’s performance. Some people may say that his performance was over the top and a bit annoying, but for the character he was trying to portray, he did it well. When you see these two characters and their rivalry, you can see contrast between the two but at the same time, some similarities.

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Paul Thomas Anderson can always make his movies look great and There Will Be Blood is no exception. The production designs are well crafted, the film takes place in different locations and they all feel authentic. Same goes for the cinematography which is filmed really well, an example of this is an incredible scene involving fire – you’ll know which scene I’m referring to when you see it. When the cinematography is paired with the soundtrack, it is especially good. The soundtrack really fits the movie’s tone.

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If you are a film buff, you should check this movie out. I know it’s not for everyone; it might not be interesting for people, it may be too long or maybe it might be too gritty and dark for some people. I do recommend watching the movie even just for the performances – in particular by Daniel Day-Lewis who gives one of the best performances shown on film. There Will Be Blood is one of cinemas all time greats and I’m glad that I watched it.