Though I’ve only seen about three of Paul Thomas Anderson’s works, I have become an enormous fan. Anderson may be the best director to have come out in the past two decades, perhaps even better than Quentin Tarantino. And There Will Be Blood is a showcase for the director, a powerhouse of a movie. Its greatness shall surely be admired to years to come (and it already has) and it has fascinated me more than any other film of the past decade.
There Will Be Blood takes place in the early 1900s during California’s oil boom. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis), a mineral prospector, soon discovers some oil and starts up a small drilling company. He soon adopts an orphaned baby of one of his workers, names him H. W..
Nine years later, Plainview has become much bigger in the oil business. H. W. (Dillion Freasier) now is his business partner. When Plainview soon discovers of a large oil deposit in a town called Little Boston, he heads there with H. W. on the intent of drilling there. But Plainview must face off a local pastor named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), who distrusts Plainview. He wants to extract money from Plainview for his church and a rivalry ensues between the two.
There Will Be Blood is a movie that really sweeps you off your feet. In the first fifteen minutes of the movie hardly a word is spoken yet we are watching a powerful story on the screen. Paul Thomas Anderson had complete control of the camera over the film and he knew what he was doing.
The perfect parallel for There Will Be Blood is Citizen Kane. Daniel Plainerview isn’t too different from Charles Foster Kane. Both are characters who grow in an increasingly industrial America. Whereas Kane becomes a newspaper tycoon, Plainview is the king of the oil industry.
Kane, on the other hand, had “Rosebud.” He had regrets, sorrows, and despairs. But for Plainview, there is no Rosebud. He hates people, distrusts them, and wants to get wealthy just so he avoid them. Plainview grows more violent throughout the film and meaner, nastier, and more despicable in the film. Plainview has a lust to get rid of all his enemies and competitors. His rivalry with Eli acts as the central conflict of the movie, and his confrontation with the preacher at the end is perhaps the most solid part of the movie.
This garners the most criticism for There Will Be Blood, that Daniel Plainview is unlikable. Many critics complain that Plainview needs a Rosebud or an explanation of his hatred for people.
I’d have to disagree with this point of view. There Will Be Blood is a character analysis of Plainview and his further desent into evil. Unlike other antiheroes such as Michael Corleone (of The Godfather) or Walter White (of Breaking Bad), Plainview starts out as despicable. We are not meant to like, sympathize, or connect with him in any shape or form.
What really stands out in the film is Daniel Day Lewis’ performance. Lewis is probably the best actor currently working in Hollywood right now and dedicates himself in his roles more than any other actor out there. Lewis is incredibly picky when choosing scripts and really immerses himself into his characters. As Plainview he makes the character not only feel believable but come alive on the screen. Lewis’ performance is as good as the best of Robert De Niro or Jimmy Stewart. No other actor could play Plainview the same way Lewis did, and this is one of the greatest performances ever.
Paul Dano is also magnificent in his role. For some apparent reason the Oscars didn’t nominate him (don’t ask me why), but he really holds up his own against Lewis. Eli is not a sympathetic character, but we can see the intensity he has on screen with Plainview. The movie’s best moments are when both actors are on screen.
Paul Thomas Anderson deserves much of the credit. A lot of people claim There Will Be Blood is boring and long, something which I can understand but disagree with. Anderson paces There Will Be Blood slowly at the beginning to the climatic ending. He keeps us from ever trying to sympathize with Plainview and gives some deep dark analysis on him.
And that’s the beauty of There Will Be Blood, it doesn’t want to be like other films. It strikes a different tone in the viewer, which can either please or upset you. Some may be repulsed by its image, its message, but it’s nothing short of amazing. It is one of the greatest movies ever made and one of the most analytical.