Entries Comments

Movie Review: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson from the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair
Paramount Vantage/Miramax

Anderson has been spending some time trying to get out of his comfort zone lately. After the same-themed trifecta of Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia, he went on to do Punch Drunk Love, one of the most unconventional love stories you’ll ever see. That was five years ago. Anderson has been compared in the past to directors like Robert Altman or Martin Scorsese. He’s also got a little Stanley Kubrick in him. Whoever he favors most, he’s always been an interesting writer/director. I can safely say I’ve never left an Anderson picture disliking it (Punch Drunk took me a second viewing to fully appreciate, however).

Front and center of There Will Be Blood is Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, whose last major role was one of the best performances of all time, in Gangs of New York), an oil man who is told by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano playing two roles) to look at Little Boston, a small town in California that is unknowingly sitting on vast amounts of oil. He goes to the Sunday ranch under the guise of quail hunting. Paul’s brother Eli (Dano again) obivously has no idea of the claims made by his brother.

While playing this role of quail hunting, Plainview, along with his “son” H.W. (Dillon Freasier), they find oil, and the potential of lots more if they dig. Plainview decides he’s going to try to buy all the land in Little Boston as cheaply as possible, with the promise of better education, employment, and overall improvement to the town, just like a politician. He promises Eli that he’ll spend money on his church. Eli practices as a faith healer and has a growing congregation.

Of course, Plainview didn’t get into his significant position by playing completely by the rules. He’s a misanthrope, one who sees the worst in people, including their weaknesses. He’s greedy, but for a different reason than you might expect.

The kick of There Will Be Blood is we see Plainview just before he’s mastered every aspect of the oil business. He still makes mistakes, despite his wealth of knowledge, some are due to greed but others are due to his dwindling opinion of the human race. At full command of this character is Lewis, without a doubt assured of an Oscar nomination if not the win (remember, his incredible Gangs performance was beaten by Adrien Brody in The Pianist).

The movie has its snags here and there. One thing that Anderson has a hard time doing is cutting his films down; there can stretches here and there that seem too slowly paced. But he’s a great writer, a good storyteller, and actors thrive under him. Dano, who has been slowly emerging to the surface, especially since last year’s Little Miss Sunshine, turns in what could be his star-making performance.

Some of the most terrible displays of human interaction are filmed in this. You won’t believe some of the words that come out of Plainview’s mouth (and it’s without any swearing, but hurts all the more). It’s the kind of dark and disturbing film that has no real chance of making tons of money at the box office, but we die-hards will appreciate the effort put forth here. It’s going to be murder trying to figure out if this or No Country for Old Men is my favorite this year.

Write a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.