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‘Phantom Thread’: Here’s What Critics Are Saying About Daniel Day-Lewis’ Final Performance

The three-time Oscar winner is certainly back in the race this year for his indelible work in "Phantom Thread."

"Phantom Thread"

“Phantom Thread”

Daniel Day-Lewis already has five Oscar nominations for Best Actor under his belt, and he seems destined to land a sixth for his work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.” The actor stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned London fashion designer in the 1950s, and the role has become highly publicized since it marks Day-Lewis’ final performance before retiring from the screen. Fortunately, it appears Day-Lewis is going out on a glorious high note.

In his A review of the drama, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn raves, “Anderson has crafted a memorable finale for his ‘There Will Be Blood’ collaborator in British dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock,” noting just how successfully Day-Lewis “rises to the challenge” of digging into his character’s “emotional immaturity.” Kohn is hardly alone in his praise for Day-Lewis. Here’s what critics around the country are saying about the actor’s final performance.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Day-Lewis gives a performance of an almost ridiculously charismatic outrageousness, the sort only he could get away with. He is Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell with a dash of Tony Armstrong-Jones – certainly Hartnell’s relationship with his sister and business partner Phyllis is evoked here. It’s a study in cult leadership to compare with Anderson’s The Master and a portrait of entrepreneurial loneliness to put alongside his appearance in Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood.”

Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Daniel Day-Lewis has spent enough time behind the façade of concocted voices and elaborate hair that it’s always a bit of an ironic shock to see him head back into the skin of his own look and personality. In the early scenes of “Phantom Thread,” he’s urbane and inviting and demurely British, with his black-and-gray hair swept back; he’s so gentlemanly in his flirtation that he reminds you of someone like George Martin.

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
The man he’s created onscreen here is a fascinating combination of knowingly displayed temperament, keen discernment, wizardly talent, emotional evasion, bewildering about-faces, super-human discipline and, ultimately, childlike vulnerability. In the end, Woodcock may, or may not, be the most powerful and resilient character in the piece, but he’s supremely complex and fascinating to observe.

Michael Snydel, The Film Stage
Day-Lewis delivers a performance that isn’t an obvious last grasp for a gold statue. He’s an expectedly domineering presence, prone to cantankerous outbursts and enunciating his words with a gentle thoughtfulness, but his essential characteristics are in service of the film’s simultaneous enchantment with and clinical admiration for fashion. True to the eye of a designer, Day-Lewis is spellbound by movement and flow, but even his most tender behavior has an air of possessiveness

Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Woodcock as a soft-spoken man with huge talent but also a huge ego…Day-Lewis gives his usual master class in acting. He plays Woodcock as a man as driven as Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood,” but not as psychotic. His bursts of anger are to drive people away so he can dig deeper into his work.

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Day-Lewis is less towering than he was in his Oscar-winning turns in Lincoln and Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, but that lack of fire has been replaced by an unspoken emptiness within Reynolds. This dressmaker is not treated like a standard complicated-but-fascinating genius.

Matt Goldberg, Collider
For Day-Lewis, it makes sense why he chose for this to be his last performance. It’s not that it’s his best work, although it’s at the same level of excellence we’ve come to expect from him over the decades (no one plays a raw nerve like Day-Lewis).

“Phantom Thread” opens in select theaters December 25.

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