Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★

His films may range from greatest to good but none can deny writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s innate ability to envision complex & lifelike characters from scratch, bestow them with layered depths & well-defined arcs, and then draw out outstanding performances from his cast to infuse life into those scripted personas.

A fascinating vignette of power dynamics set in the couture world of 1950s London, Phantom Thread is another absorbing character study from the esteemed auteur that follows a renowned fashion designer who falls for a young, strong-willed woman but soon finds his carefully tailored routine & controlled lifestyle disrupted by love.

Written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia & There Will Be Blood), the film introduces its characters in a way that clearly establishes who’s in control, after which Anderson starts shifting the power from one character to another. Presiding over every little detail, his direction is just as calm, confident & composed as before.

Production design team recreates the 1950s London setting & its couture scene in splendid fashion. Costumes bring a luminous quality to every frame. Cinematography is smooth & relaxed throughout. Editing unfolds the plot at an unhurried pace but it can be troubling if you are not already invested in the characters’ journey. Lastly, Jonny Greenwood contributes with an elegant score that’s almost always present.

Coming to the performances, Phantom Thread presents Daniel Day-Lewis in his final role and the veteran actor commits to his character like only he can, bringing him to life from the inside out. And yet he isn’t the most impressive, for both Lesley Manville & Vicky Krieps chip in with strong individual inputs of their own, former playing his sister with a dominating demeanour while latter delivering her career-best work as his muse & lover.

On an overall scale, Phantom Thread is a masterly directed, deftly scripted, finely layered, wonderfully photographed, patiently paced & exquisitely performed tale of love, obsession & power that’s original, alluring & engrossing. A quality example of first-rate storytelling, the film is another spectacular entry in Paul Thomas Anderson’s distinguished filmography and a fitting farewell to Daniel Day-Lewis’ extraordinary career. One of the best all-round films of 2017.

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