To preface this, if you even remotely like character studies such as that done in Taxi Driver or any of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous work like Boogie Nights or Magnolia, don’t even question if you should see There Will Be Blood or not, just do it. To say the least, it has earned it’s Oscar nomination (in my mind and most everyone else’s) and is now easily one of my favorite films of the decade.
There Will Be Blood is about Daniel Plainview, a self proclaimed oil baron who takes land (by manipulating small farm towns) and finds oil by any means necessary. It chronicles his rise and fall, from 1898 to 1927, as he becomes richer and more disgusted with the rest of the world – to the point of his seclusion and drunken stupors. We find out very early on, that Daniel is not a good person and cares for no one except his son and partner H.W. Plainview, who he adopted after his father died in a well. The film focuses mainly on his escapades in the very rural area called Little Boston, a place he’s been introduced to by Paul Sunday, a man who sells him information on a ranch that has oil “bubbling up from the ground”. Thus begins Daniel’s very long and profitable stay in the town and where his involvement with a “spirit healer” named Eli Sunday, a man with very different plans for the area, takes place.
The two major characters in this story, as you may have guessed, are Daniel and Eli who are played by Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano. Both actors breath life into their characters like nothing I’ve had the pleasure of watching before. I expected such a great performance by Day Lewis, but Dano sort of came from nowhere, first with last year’s performance in Little Miss Sunshine and now with his showing here. Daniel Day Lewis plays the tormented power hungry oil man with a heart of black superbly and also very much deserves his Oscar nomination. Eli almost represents Daniel’s conscience and as the movie goes on, we watch them battle each other, until such time when Daniel eventually cuts all connections to him altogether. There isn’t, however, much to say about the supporting cast. It was mainly filled with people that I have never seen before, most notably Kevin J’ O Connor who plays Henry Brands (a man claiming to be Plainview’s half-brother) and Dillon Freasier who plays H.W. Plainview. They do well enough to steer clear of the brilliant work by the main players in the story.
Another major thing to mention here is the cinematography – it is some of the best I have ever seen and only second to that of No Country for Old Men. Robert Elswit does a remarkable job capturing the landscape in this film; so many of the shots were just breathtaking to view. The rural backdrop is a breath of fresh air and the scene when they first hit oil in Little Boston is so fantastic that it has to be seen to believed. I can honestly say that the imagery itself is very nearly enough to keep one interested throughout the entire movie.
What else can I say? There Will Be Blood is a great movie that should be seen by everyone with a pulse. It deserves all of the awards it’s been nominated for and for good reason. If you haven’t seen it yet, then I strongly suggest you check it out. You may just find one of your favorite movies of all time, just like I did.