10 Best Robert Elswit Movies
Robert Elswit has had an exciting career as a cinematographer. He has worked with director Paul Thomas Anderson on some of Anderson’s absolute best films. Together they’ve created many beautiful images in powerful films. Elswit has not shied away from mass-market productions though. His work with Brad Bird and Christopher McQuarrie on their respective entries to the Mission: Impossible franchise offer similarly breathtaking imagery. Elswit’s talent is clear in any movie he has worked on whether it be a blockbuster popcorn flick or a limited-release arthouse film. Below you will find ten of his best films to date.
Boogie Nights (1997)
Boogie Nights turned out to be the breakthrough film of Paul Thomas Anderson’s as well as Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg’s turn as a Golden Age porn star self-named Dirk Diggler continues to be one of the best of his career, if not the very best. Elswit offers a stylish, colorful and faithful recreation of Los Angeles in the 1970s. With a star-studded cast including Burt Reynolds, Heather Graham, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, it is a truly great watch.
Inherent Vice (2014)
Anderson’s Inherent Vice has been appropriately described by some as “stoner noir.” The film is based on Thomas Pynchon’s famous novel of the same name with Joaquin Phoenix as the drug-addled investigator at the center of the story, Doc Sportello. His search for his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) who has mysteriously disappeared is constantly disrupted by a variety of strange characters in this film, which is funnily written by Anderson and Pynchon and beautifully-shot by Anderson and Elswit.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis has had many transformative roles throughout his career including Abraham Lincoln and Bill the Butcher — but his turn as Daniel Plainview is likely his most memorable. Based off of a turn-of-the-20th-century novel by Upton Sinclair, Anderson and Elswit offer a visually incredible film portrayal of Lewis’ Plainview, a ruthless, sociopathic miner-turned-oil tycoon.
Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015)
Christopher McQuarrie’s first entry to the Mission: Impossible franchise was not only received as one of the best to date, but it is also one of the most gorgeous. McQuarrie and Elswit together create a visually elegant world around Tom Cruise’s Impossible Mission Force Agent Ethan Hunt and his cohorts. It is exciting, building steadily to a satisfying conclusion. Even in a year that was oversaturated with auteurist blockbusters, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation stands out.
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011)
Prior to McQuarrie’s first film of the series, Brad Bird took the reins to the Mission: Impossible franchise. His entry is wildly entertaining, offering far and away the best set piece — Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt climbing the Burj Khalifa — since Brian De Palma’s film in 1996. It is one of many exciting, nail-biting sequences made by Bird and Elswit in this popcorn masterpiece.
Hard Eight (1994)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut feature film Hard Eight didn’t receive a lot of attention outside of film circles — but within them it was well-received. Philip Baker Hall plays an aging gambler named Sydney who helps teach a young man named John (John C. Reilly) to support himself at the card table. With supporting performances from Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, it is a truly special film with great visual work by Elswit.
Michael Clayton (2007)
Tony Gilroy’s underrated paranoia thriller Michael Clayton includes a career-high dramatic performance from George Clooney as the titular attorney. Clayton faces a moral dilemma when he is brought in to help protect a corrupt chemical corporation from facing charges for their wrongdoing. Elswit once again offers characteristically sturdy work in this stylish film of intrigue.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Punch-Drunk Love, another Paul Thomas Anderson hit, may indeed feature some of Elswit’s best work to date. The film — in which Adam Sandler plays an emotionally stunted man trying to foster a relationship with a woman played by Emily Watson — is colorful, with a lot of bright blues and reds. Philip Seymour Hoffman fills a key role once again—proving to be a mainstay of Anderson’s filmography prior to his untimely passing.
Jake Gyllenhaal went all-out haunting for his turn as Louis Bloom. Bloom survives in Los Angeles by going to increasingly desperate (and morally questionable) measures to arrive on the scenes of violent crimes before anyone else in the media does. It is an unsettling performance in an unsettling film — but it is gorgeously colored by Elswit and director Dan Gilroy.
Magnolia continues to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s most sprawling film to date. With his familiar ensemble cast including Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, and Alfred Molina, Anderson tells the interwoven stories of a variety of people. Most notably, the stories therein include that of Cruise’s pick-up artist Frank T.J. Mackey and his estranged father played by Jason Robards. With great cinematographic work by Elswit, the film is truly something to see.
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