Phantom Thread movie poster
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Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread movie poster

Phantom Thread Movie Review

Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson are back to test your patience again, seemingly conspiring to experiment to see just how far fantastic acting and precise directing can drive a story about two unlikable characters who theoretically love each other.

Make no mistake, Phantom Thread is a well done film. On a technical level, Anderson has assembled another superbly crafted picture, one that so cohesively draws together its masterful cinematography, score and screenplay that it serves almost as its own character. It’s beautiful to look at, even if much of the movie is constrained to a multi-level home and close-ups of old women sewing clothes.

And for a while it’s absorbing, largely thanks to the intoxicating performances by Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps, who, in what has to be her biggest role to date (at least in English), submits to the audience the fact that she can stay steady with one of the best actors who has ever lived. Krieps is terrific, delivering a nuanced, engrossing and frustratingly complex performance that should earn her plaudits. Of course, that’s not to diminish Day-Lewis, who once again dives into his character with pure dedication.

The movie thrives off the confusing attraction and passive aggressive quarrels between the two, even if from the first scene together he’s already emotionally abusing her. Most will find the nuanced back-and-forth a bore, however, and sadly Thomas Anderson never takes the story in a fulfilling direction, even though he hints at it. Phantom Thread, as boring as it looks in the trailer and as dull as its description is (a dressmaker and his muse), actually starts to dabble with disturbing material, but the climax is too subdued to satisfy those who aren’t true cinephiles. Which I’m not.

What’s maddening about Phantom Thread is how close it is to greatness. But beautiful direction and top-tier acting aren’t enough if the story doesn’t have enough momentum, or the filmmaker the unwillingness, to go for the kill, and Phantom Thread pulls back just as it’s getting good.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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