There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson (Novel: Oil! by Upton Sinclair)
Daniel Day-Lewis, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciaran Hinds, Dillon Freasier, Barry Del Sherman, Russell Harvard, Harrison Taylor, Stockton Taylor, Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Dano, Sydney McCallister, David Willis, Christine Oleiniczak, Kellie Hill, James Downey, Dan Swallow, Robert Arber, David Williams, Irene G. Hunter, Hope Elizabeth Reeves, David Warshofsky, Tom Doyle, Colton Woodward, John Burton, Hans Howes
R (for some violence)
A stirring look at the life of an oil tycoon, There Will Be Blood takes the audience on a visceral, astounding look at the power of greed.
During the California Gold Rush, a quiet man works alone in the cramped shaft he has dug for himself. Without a word of dialogue, this scene opens the film and conveys efficiently to the audience the mad dedication and perseverance of the film’s lead played by Daniel Day-Lewis. As Daniel Plainview, Day-Lewis navigates the complex and difficult personalities of an oil tycoon as he struggles to dominate the people in his life.
Shortly after the film opens, the first drop of blood is spilled. The single father of a small infant meets his fate at the bottom of a well where Plainview is attempting to set up a pump. Plainview takes the child and raises him as his own. H.W. is treated like a part of the family, but Plainview skirts the edge of acceptable behavior by using someone who is not his own flesh-and-blood to manipulate and convince those who would otherwise distrust him into doing business with him.
When Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) approaches Plainview with a plot of land that is guaranteed to have oil, Plainview agrees to a donation to Eli Sunday’s (Paul Dano) church in exchange for the information. After he arrives and purchases all but one plot of land, he refuses to live up to his deal.
By the time Eli realizes what has happened, the town has already come to depend on Plainview and his workers to keep themselves in business, which gives Daniel the power to avoid repayment, for his departure would mean financial ruin.
Based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, There Will Be Blood never forces you to understand. Paul Thomas Anderson’s script allows the viewer to reach his or her own conclusions and piece together what is happening on the screen. Too often, filmmakers feel they must spell every detail of the plot out to the audience for them to understand what’s going on. That’s not the case with Blood.
The film is filled with marvelous performances led by Day-Lewis whose effortless assumption of the persona of Daniel Plainview is one of the best transformations in recent memory. Paul Dano is sufficiently creepy and irritating as the dueling personalities of Eli and Paul Sunday.
What struck me most about Anderson’s film was how it managed to feel as if it could have been made during any period of film history. There is a strain of modernism, most notably in the final minutes of the film, but the rest of it is comparable to the best films of John Ford and George Stevens. There Will Be Blood has a classicism that has been attempted in recent years, but seldom achieved. It’s the kind of film that if it had been made 50 years ago or 50 years from now, it would still carry the same emotional and moral profundity.
There Will Be Blood could be stacked easily into the pantheon of great movies. The film runs just over two-and-a-half hours and despite a deliberate and more leisurely pace, it still feels immediate and pressing. There are no wasted shots. There is no wasted dialogue. It’s as near perfection as any movie made in the last quarter century.
January 23, 2008