Any time that Daniel Day-Lewis steps into a role, it is an event. Throw in Paul Thomas Anderson behind the camera and it’s hard not to get excited. And the pair have whipped us up quite the tantalising treat with Phantom Thread.
Anderson is a filmmaker that constantly pushes the envelope for genre and cinema and his latest, a two-hander chamber-piece set in the depths of the 50s fashion underworld in London, is no exception; part-gothic romance, part-nail-biting character thriller, Phantom Thread is as elegant as the dresses on show in the film but, like Day-Lewis’ Woodcock lining his dresses with unique secrets, it’s also full of plenty hidden surprise and shock. The setup is simple, really: Reynolds Woodcock is a lauded dressmaker for Britain’s elite class of women, an arrogant and taciturn man of very particular and refined taste. But when he falls for the beguiling Alma (Vickey Krieps), he finds his routine and structure all thrown into anarchy.
There’s a lot of talk surrounding Daniel Day-Lewis’ work here, given it comes with the monumental claim of being his last ever role and, indeed, if this is the case, it’s a smashing bow; to say that Day-Lewis is extraordinary in the role is like saying water is wet but, to state the fact, it is very much true. The actor breathes a disquieting intensity yet oddly charismatic breath into Woodcock here that perhaps no other actor could; he’s engrossing to watch, so tightly-wound and fascinating in his quirks and details. Lesley Manville gives a great supporting turn as Woodcock’s unsettling sister Cyril too, a very subdued yet ambiguous turn that keeps her an enigmatic yet tough presence. However, it is Vickey Krieps that makes quite the impression, a revelation in such a deliciously complex role; she effortlessly holds her own against a titan like Day-Lewis and infuses Alma with almost a wicked tenderness and subtlety to her and its delivered with such palpable conviction.
The story and characters are utterly riveting; this is far more than just a film about “fashion” with so much tension, deceit and darkness brewing beneath the surface. The writing here is sharp and the character-work is some of the best in a film in some time; the film is full of tricks and constantly meanders in ways you wouldn’t expect, taking its characters on such dark and surprising paths. At its core, this is a film about power and love and it’s perhaps one of the most twisted love stories I’ve seen in some time – Anderson really exposes the beast in the beauty and the beast scenario here – but every frame of it is absolutely engrossing. The layers and attention to detail are exquisite and all boil together to create a film that is wholly captivating and deceitful in the best of ways and one that will have plenty of jaws on the floor. Least of all the surprises is the wit littered throughout the screenplay; this is a very funny film – wry and jet-black and creeping up on you when you least expect, but hilarious nonetheless - and it works superbly well, woven seamlessly into the darkness and tension that Phantom Thread offers us.
This film really is nothing short of a masterpiece. In typical Paul Thomas Anderson nature, nothing is ever as it seems and Thread is a lusciously complex, nuanced piece that twists and turns and will have you on the edge of your seat, unable to look away. The orchestration of character and tension, the meticulous timing and attention to detail, all encased in PTA’s seductive and gorgeous cinematography and flavoured with the hauntingly beautiful score from Jonny Greenwood make for yet another fine notch of mastery in the belt of one of the finest filmmakers working. It’s deliciously dark and strange in its nature, yet such a seductive and tantalisingly crafted work of exquisite design that you can’t help but be entranced. If this really is Daniel Day-Lewis’ final film, he has gone out with a bang. But with just how stunning a piece it is, you can’t help but think we’ll see him work with Paul Thomas Anderson once more before his curtain finally closes. Because to not have him soaking up any more of Anderson's masterful stories would just be a real tragedy.
Phantom Thread is a truly astounding craft of exquisite and subliminal design and detail. It’s as elegant as the dresses on show but also full of such unexpected surprise and complexity.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.