Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Dano
Writer/Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (adapted from the book “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair)
Rated R for Some Violence
There are certain words I told myself I would use only very rarely in order to maintain their effect. In this day and age, film critics (and bloggers) are prone to hyperbole, either as a literary device or to get themselves quoted on the poster or DVD cover. That being said, I’m about to say something I don’t think I’ve ever actually used in conjunction with a movie before: There Will Be Blood, the 2007 film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is a masterpiece.
I didn’t know what to expect going in, because to be honest, I have never really encountered P.T. Anderson films in my life as a movie watcher. I’ve heard great (and no so great things) about Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love, but none of them really caught my eye or made me want to watch. When There Will Be Blood came out, it was much of the same, but as the years have gone by I have heard the infamous “I drink your milkshake!” line and have watched the SNL skit where Bill Hader does a Daniel Plainview impersonation countless times and while both are played up for comedic reasons, it still got me to want to watch this.
Boy am I glad I did. There Will Be Blood has no negative side to it; everything from the actors to the cinematography to the script to the score…it all blends well together to form a near perfect film, something that I can see being part of a film school curriculum in the future once everyone finally gets over The Seventh Seal. Although it runs at two and a half hours, the film grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go, keeping you watching and basking in its greatness. The story is simple, but There Will Be Blood is about the journey of an oil tycoon who is driven by his greed and his lust to be the best in the business, at the expense of a personal life and the relationship he has with his son.
There Will Be Blood is Daniel Day Lewis’ movie, and he deserved all the praise and all the accolades he got after the film came out. He transforms himself into the character of Daniel Plainview so well that it’s almost scary. Sporting possibly the coolest movie mustache in history and an icy stare, your instincts tell you to fear him and with good reason; there is something off about this man that you cannot quite place. Although he is cordial, he is not friendly. He inspires the respect of his workers and he is as shrewd as any businessman. Through this though, you see flashes of Plainview’s humanity, however brief. He may seem to shun connection, only really confiding in his son H.W. (Dillon Freaser), but he does have a soul and moments do exist where he breaks down out of his shell to briefly remind you of his humanity. The keyword there is “briefly” though, because as soon as you blink your eyes, he is back at work, either manning the oil fields with his men or threatening to kill competitors in their sleep. I have doubted Lewis’ prowess as an actor before, but not anymore; this man is a goddamn genius.
The antagonist of the story, church/cult leader Eli Sunday, is also well played by Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine). Dano’s character is whacked out, a man who believes the word of God flows through his veins. He may run what he calls a church, but that is a cult, a sect that would no doubt be looked down upon by any of its Christian brethren. Eli is unnaturally calm, but at the same time, unbalanced which comes out in small spurts much like Plainview. Dano is simply unsettling in the role, and this will be the work that will define his career for the remainder of his life (and thankfully not Gigantic). Although Plainview is a bad guy in his own right, the way Eli is written and the way Dano plays him, you can tell he’s more sinister than Plainview ever could be. Eli Sunday is evil in his own way, choosing to brainwash the many in his town to curtail to his whim with his Evangelist-like sermons. Think of him as an early 20th century Jimmy Swaggart.
There Will Be Blood is beautifully shot, a period piece that looks like it could have come from that time period. The shots P.T. uses and the beautiful cinematography by Robert Elswit makes a beautiful movie to look at. The score by Johnny Greenwood is amazing as well and really helps give the film an added gravitas. It is implemented sporadically, but it always work and is always effective, especially the more percussion-heavy tracks.
I could go on and on…the costumes are great, the sound effects are amazing, and so on and so forth, but I feel like that would be wasting your time. There Will Be Blood is one of the best films in recent memory and could possibly be the greatest film of the 2000′s. The excellence of Daniel Day Lewis has created one of film’s new iconic characters and P.T. Anderson has succeeded in making a modern masterpiece. There I go again, saying things I try to avoid…but when it comes to the brilliance of There Will Be Blood, it is one hundred percent warranted.