On the 11th of May 1997 one the greatest footballers, Eric Cantona played his last competitive game of football for Manchester United. At the end of that season he announced his surprise retirement at the relatively young age of 30 years old. Having won countless trophies and awards he decided to call it a day because he no longer had the passion for the game. I was gutted. He was a hero of mine. My favourite player, I could watch him play for hours. The thought of not being able watch him play the game I loved for the team I supported was unthinkable. Of course over time I grew up, I got over it. Other favourite players came and went. I got used to that feeling. I thought nothing would surprise me anymore.
Just over 20 years later on the 20th June 2017 it was announced that one of greatest actors of their generation was making one more film before retiring. Daniel Day-Lewis, the winner of 3 ‘Best Actor Oscars’ appeared to have fallen out of love with his profession. It took me back to that day in 1997 when King Eric hung up his boots, back to way I felt when I was 12 years old. Back to that feeling that I had in my gut that day; disappointment and sadness. So be prepared, this may be the last 130 minutes to watch a new film from a real life icon. Day-Lewis may not have done as many films as De Niro and Pacino but the standard of his work can’t be questioned.
‘Phantom Thread’ is another team up from director Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis, the pairing that gave us ‘There Will Be Blood’. The premise is pretty simple. Set in the 1950’s post-war London, well renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who are at the very centre of the British fashion industry, dress the elite with the styles of The House of Woodcock. Reynolds lives a bachelor life style, many women have come and gone until he comes across a young waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life.
As always, a PT Anderson film is an experience. His work has always stood out, for better or worse his films are always talked about. He is a master craftsman whose attitude and work has always had a whiff of an older generation filmmaker about himself, but yet he is always on the edge of doing something new and different. Here with ‘Phantom Thread’ he has created a very British gothic romance which is extremely funny. The film is layered in rich visceral storytelling which uses every tool of cinematic magic to add a sense of wonder about it.
Like the suits he gets to wear, Daniel Day-Lewis instantly stands out. He never goes into a project where he isn’t completely prepared. He embodies every character he plays. This is a less bombastic performance compared to Bill Cutting in ‘Gangs Of New York’ or Daniel Plainview in ‘There Will be Blood’. Reynolds is much more soft spoken and a refined man, but is he also very fierce and always straight to the point. He is very much a man who likes things done his way and on his terms, like the way he works or his breakfast routine. Another Oscar nomination is high praise and nobody can question if he deserves it or not. Very few actors can portray an array of different emotions with the way they look or the way they handle themselves quite like Daniel Day-Lewis can.
As good as Daniel Day-Lewis is, it’s the woman in Reynolds Woodcock’s life that really make ‘Phantom Thread’ stand out. Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps both hold their own against one of cinema’s finest. Krieps a relative newcomer shines as Alma, Woodcock latest muse. The evolution of Alma from the quiet waitress to Reynolds main lady is handled beautifully in her hands. It’s strange that her performance hasn’t attracted more award talk. Unlike Manville, who has been nominated in a number of different awards including best supporting actress at this year’s Oscars. Manville plays Reynolds sister Cyril; the one woman is his life that he listens to. Manville brings a touch of class and heart to a character that could quite easily be portrayed as a stone cold cartoon villain.
Sight and sound are equally important and thanks to Johnny Greenwood’s score (also has a Oscar nom) this film is given life that many films just miss out on. His work here not only enriches each character, it provokes emotions that enhance the visuals to another level.
When it comes down to it, ‘Phantom Thread’ is surprisingly quotable, cinematically very pleasing and a joy to watch. The cast all share strong chemistry and with a little help from Johnny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson has created another excellent film which sits very nicely with his back catalogue.
If this is Daniel Day-Lewis’ last ever film, then I will happily watch his old films with a smile on my face, just like I do with old Eric Cantona clips on YouTube, but I do hope he changes his mind. He is just too good. He has loads left in the tank.
Dave’s Rating: 9/10
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps