There Will Be Blood (loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!) is what you would call an epic– and monumental one at that. It’s another endeavor by the oh-so-masterful auteur Paul Thomas Anderson (Sydney, Magnolia), and unlike several other works of his, it doesn’t concentrate on an abundance of characters, instead it focuses on only one: Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis (who’s the only recognized actor in the film). His tremendously dazzling energy alone renders this one of the most powerful films of the decades.
You will agree when I say Daniel Plainview is an oil man. His only goal in life is becoming as rich as he possibly can. He went from poor silver prospector to more-than-wealthy oil company owner, possessing several flourishing wells. In short: He’s a self-made man. When a stranger named Paul Sunday comes along and offers him the location (at a price) with huge amounts of oil, he accepts the proposition (after threatening him with his life, naturally). A small town called Little Boston is the place Paul spoke of. Daniel soon buys the Sunday family’s ranch, and most of the land around it. There he meets Eli Sunday, who is Paul’s twin brother (or so I assume), a supposed prophet and leader of the Church of the third Revelation. A peculiar and a fascinating clash between the two polarizing men (Eli being excessively religious, and Daniel an atheist) rappidly develops. Daniel’s adopted son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) accompanies his father everywhere, as the mother died in birth and the father was in an accident when working with Daniel. He’s mainly used as a tool, a cute face, to persuade sellers of land. And as stated at the end, that was all he ever was. Nothing but a bastard from a basket.
The film is set in three different time periods, 1901, 1911 (largely focusing on these years), and 1927. Their disparity in screentime aside, all of them explore the same subjects. The progress in Daniel Plainview’s goal for wealth, the continually changing relationship with his son H.W., and his growing frustration with everyone around him (Eli Sunday in particular).
Merely saying Daniel Day-Lewis deserved his oscar for the role of Daniel Plainview is an enormous understatement. It’s as if he was born to play the callous oil baron, and he delivers — I dare say — one of the greatest performances in cinema history. Sometimes he’s gentle, but most of the times alarmingly hateful, and intermittently he feels the tiniest of regret. Day-Lewis pulls it all of with such proficiency– I have a hard time putting into words how he just sucks you in every second he’s in the frame. His clear but gritty voice, the vigorous appearance and his matching body language, it’s perfect.
The cinemaphotography by Robert Elswit is enthralling– in a way simple, but beautifully done. We harshly cut from dark close-ups to the burning white landscapes of California (something Elswit is very self-aware of), which results in a rigorous capture of the film’s essence.
There Will Be Blood is an incredible masterpiece. While, yes, having a two and half hour running time, it’s not as slow as some might have you believe. I felt the film flashing by as if it was a ninety minute popcorn flick. It has an ending so breathtaking you’ll have a hard time convincing yourself that you in fact saw what you saw (although I heard it’s a conclusion many have loathed). This, folks, is filmmaking at its finest.
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good review, I love this movie!
Brilliant review, this is indeed a true masterpiece. And yes i agree with you, the ending left me gobsmacked.
Thanks for reading, man.
Good job. Daniel Day-Lewis really needs more screenplays like this that are worthy enough for him, and won’t actually hinder him or hold him back. This movie alone sets him in a class of his own as well as his performance in Gangs of New York, which basically carried the whole film. No one sports a W.B. Mason mustache better either.
Jonny Greenwood’s score is just overwhelming in this movie too. I also absolutely love the dark humor in this film.
Not to contradict you, but I believe that Daniel Plainview actually did have some feelings for H.W., despite ignoring them when he sent him away. You remember those scenes where he was embracing him when they were alone, don’t you? He may have had ulterior motives from the start. I’d say that his madness and complete lack of compassion in the end was a gradual progression that was tied to his greed. I think what also crept insanity upon him was his complete lack of respect for other men who couldn’t stand on their own two feet and perhaps he thought they were a disgrace to ambitious folk. The idea of life only being about survival, money, jobs, and avoiding religious fanatics disturbs me, especially if that was all there was in life to talk about for this man.
I wasn’t clear enough, I also believe he had some feelings for H.W., (which is why I mentioned that he’s sometimes gentle, and sometimes feels regret, like when he sent H.W. away on the train). I just meant to say that Plainview claimed H.W. meant nothing to him at the end.
Oh I see. It wasn’t just you. You also mentioned they’re continually changing relationship. I failed to add all those details together. It wasn’t hard to see your opinion had I done so. I kind of browsed through this quickly. I have a bad habit of doing that occasionally.
Plainview had deep feelings for H.W. all the way up until he went deaf. When that happened, Daniel realized that H.W. would never amount to the great man he wanted him to be, and so he lost those feelings of care and love, because he never truly loved him like that, you see. He loved him as his tool, his associate… but never as this “child” that he could raise up. Because after all, he wasn’t really his. One could say that by the end of it, Daniel felt plagued by having to take care of H.W., and him being in the accident and going deaf was enough reason for him to send him off. Of course, the perspective depends on the individual. But that’s how it all is.
Ah yes, he had deep feelings for him but didn’t love him like a son. I doubt when he first found this baby he thought, “ah yes, a tool, I’ll be able to use him when he gets older (not that I’m saying that’s what either of you are saying. We are not necessarily in disagreement).” He was more like, huh… what’s this? He has no father now. I’m not going to leave him to die. Guess he’s coming with me.” It wasn’t necessarily a decision based on love and understandably so under those circumstances. I think as you alluded to J.C. that he had mixed emotions that went back and forth. He had no hidden agenda to apologize to H.W. when he brought him back to be his company. He certainly wasn’t sure if he loved him at all times, but felt guilty when he didn’t nevertheless.
On a slightly different subject that I think shows why this man was so cruel to H.W. towards the end of the film, here’s a theory of mine, if your interested. Daniel Plainview always grew the most defensive, and immediately to insanely aggressive, when he felt that he wasn’t being appreciated for his ambition, his self made empire, his rags to riches status, that he alone created with continuous sweat, back breaking labor, and uninterrupted mental focus. Anytime he sensed other’s views of his life long struggle as meaningless, is where he viewed it as a direct insult, a stab to his being, and then his psychotic comments followed. So it doesn’t surprise me that he reacted to older H.W. the way he did. The world was his competitor. No one had appreciated what he had done because no one was even capable of doing such a thing, in his eyes at least and he was kind of right. He reacts the same way to the man posing as his brother. He views it as despicable that this man couldn’t stand on his own 2 feet, and deceived his very emotions for him just for survival rather than building something with his own hands himself. He saw him as a pathetic parasite. That shows no respect or comprehension of what Daniel Plainview had done.
I won’t get into it, but I think it’s obvious that the oil man’s reactions to Eli Sunday and the men who tried to buy him out with a lazy ass offer, that required absolutely no sweat and tears, were regarded as a direct insult to his very life long focus too. Eli Sunday certainly had no respect for his actions or ambitions either. Repent, you sinner!