There Will Be Blood (2007)

Review #1,212

Director:  Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast:  Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds
Plot:  A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won 2 Oscars - Best Leading Actor, Best Cinematography.  Nom. for 6 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Editing.  Won Silver Bear (Berlin).
Runtime:  158min
Rating:  PG for some violence.
Distributor:  Paramount Vantage

“Things go up, things go down, but at least the Lord is always around.”

This is without a shadow of a doubt Paul Thomas Anderson's most accomplished film to date.  It may or may not be your favourite work of his, but it is impossible to deny its greatness.  I have seen it more than six times now, and every single time I'm taken aback by Anderson's mastery of the medium.  I'm quite certain in time to come, There Will Be Blood will be regarded as a genuine American masterpiece of the 2000s decade.

Loosely adapted from the novel 'Oil!' by Upton Sinclair, the film shows both Anderson’s brilliance as a director and a screenwriter.  He is focused, precise, and knows how to present his vision in the most cinematic way possible, without compromising on plot and character.  Running close to 160 minutes, the film is methodically paced with the intention of letting the drama and tension unfold and sweep over you.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning performance as Daniel Plainview, an oilman whose greed knows no boundaries, is one of his very best, and that’s saying something.  He is pitted against Paul Dano, in a breakthrough role as Eli Sunday, a self-taught religious preacher whose only wish is to spread the gospel and bless the town’s oil wells.  Dano’s strong performance ought to have earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

What makes There Will Be Blood tick from a thematic standpoint is the sheer intrigue that comes out of the dialectic between capitalism and religion.  Anderson pushes both themes to their extremes, embodied so wholeheartedly by Daniel and Eli respectively.  Their overwhelming enthusiasm and fervour cloud the inherently positive qualities of both constructs – one is eager to convert the other to his beliefs, no matter what it takes.

Shot by Robert Elswit, and scored by Jonny Greenwood (in his first collaboration with Anderson), There Will Be Blood pays homage to Stanley Kubrick in many ways: the opening scene, with dissonant strings, wouldn’t have felt out of place in The Shining (1980).  The use of classical music to accompany visuals of large, turning mechanisms of an oil well remind me of the rotating space stations of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  Not to mention the bowling alley shot in the climax – Kubrickian is the word.

There Will Be Blood also contains what I would champion as one of the greatest set-pieces in American cinema – the oil well explosion sequence midway through the film.  Anderson’s visual-aural sensorial approach to this set-piece is astonishing to behold, using long takes, tracking shots, Greenwood’s percussive music, and careful use of sound, light and shadow to construct a truly formidable ‘action’ sequence. 

I urge you to see this masterpiece.

Verdict:  Not just P.T. Anderson’s finest film to date, but one of the greatest works of the 2000s decade - this is a cinematic masterpiece in every sense of the word.


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Kishan said…
Were you bothered by the abrupt tonal shift at the end? After my first watch I couldn't help but be turned off by that shift, but on further viewings I was able to appreciate it better. Definitely a masterpiece.
Eternality Tan said…
Hi! You mean the final confrontation between Day-Lewis and Dano in the bowling alley? I loved it the first time I saw it because it was so ludicrous. But also felt it was bold by P.T. Anderson to 'finish' (and indeed so) the film off in a surprisingly way.
Kishan said…
Yeah that scene. Also the cinematography in that sequence is, when compared with the scene, quite striking. For better or worse it's probably going to be the darkest film P.T. Anderson will ever make. He seems to be simplifying his style since that movie, and it shows in The Master and Inherent Vice, and even in Junun. He's relying less on filmmaking tricks and more on just pure storytelling. I guess it shows his maturity as an artist? I don't know, but he's definitely one of the best American filmmakers at work today.
Eternality Tan said…
I agree with you. He's also one of my favourite directors working today.

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