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THERE WILL BE BLOOD (review)

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson /Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano and Dillon Freasier
Without anything but the reputation of the director, Paul Thomas Anderson (BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA) and the lead actor, Daniel Day-Lewis to base this on, I somehow knew beforehand that this would be an instant classic, that it would somehow change the game without anyone knowing they were playing one to begin with. The moment it started, everything I suspected was confirmed. The unsettling hum of Jonny Greenwood’s score rises gradually as the scribe-written title makes way for the vast hillside where the story begins. And then we meet Day-Lewis, as Daniel Plainview. For the next ten minutes, he chips away at a wall in a well with a pick. He is completely silent, intensely focused and all of it is pure brilliance. If you aren’t mesmerized after this one scene, you should just shut it off.

Plainview, thanks to Day-Lewis’s uncanny embodiment of this character, is now a film icon. This is a man so complex, so devious and so conflicted that he is unlike anything ever captured on film before. He comes from humble beginnings and pursues the American dream diligently as an oil man. His dedication pays off and an unfortunate twist of fate brings a child into his life. For a time, it seems as though all is well, as though Plainview will rule the world he has created for himself. Naturally, life is not so kind. The pursuit of financial wealth, when pursued so vehemently, makes it difficult to see that life is still happening. Before long, Plainview is at odds with the local preacher (Paul Dano, who shows incredible potential and holds his own with Day-Lewis), who is himself at odds with God himself as he falsely claims to be a prophet. The clash pits religion against capitalism and exposes the thin line between them when they are corrupted. When an accident strains communication between Plainview and his son, his one human connection is severed and his hope for salvation is practically over. Day-Lewis’s subsequent descent into the madness of his mind is beguiling.


As much as the success of this film rests on the powerhouse performance of its star, praise must be gushed on its helmer, P.T. Anderson. Anderson’s previous films have attracted a certain type of filmgoer. In BOOGIE NIGHTS, he was provocative and playful with 1970’s porn but lost the plot before it could conclude. In MAGNOLIA, he entered a dramatic hurricane, which he weathered just fine mostly, but that overtook him at times as well. With PUNCHDRUNK LOVE, he was poignant but the subject matter was too off the wall for even some of his fans to appreciate. With THERE WILL BE BLOOD though, he took on a topic unlike anything he has tackled in his past, one that is so inherently rich and deep, that he was forced to step up his game. Not only did he do this but the challenge itself transformed him into a master filmmaker. It is always so fulfilling to see a director step so far away from what he knows already to become the incredible director he always promised to be.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a chilling prophecy of where we are now. It is a promise that at one point in time, there will in fact be some blood. The film makes good on its promise just as it has happened in life over the same subject – oil. Revisiting the dawn of the oil industry in America gives insight into the birth of the maddening greed that seems intrinsically linked to it. Mindful not to be so simple though, Anderson paints Plainview as far more complex than a simple glutton. His issues run far deeper than that and the actions he takes act as a drill that eventually reaches his core and catapults a substance as putrid as oil from his soul. By the time this epic concludes, we too are covered in a black substance that isn’t easily shaken.

5 sheep

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How many sheep would you give There Will Be Blood?

2 Comments

  1. The moment in this film that I will never forget is when Plainview is offered an ungodly sum for his business. The businessman spells it out “You can retire!”, to which Plainview (quite matter-of-factly) responds “What would I do then?”

    It makes you pause doesn’t it? That perhaps many of the most successful businesspeople are still going at it full tilt because they don’t know what else to do with themselves? I don’t know about you, but if I ever found myself at the top of a particularly lucrative business, my first order of business would be finding someone to run it so that I could get some R&R and enjoy the high life.

    I don’t think any film this decade understood how greed can corrupt the human soul nearly as much as this movie did.

    Here’s hoping that we don’t have to wait five years for another P.T. Anderson film again!

    Oh, and btw…

    http://mcneilmatinee.blogspot.com/2009/10/decade-pt-viii-top-five-00s-movies-2007.html

  2. I don’t mind waiting another five years for a new P.T. Anderson film if it means him stepping up his game as much as he did with this film. This one really floored me. If it hadn’t come out the same year as the Coen’s masterpiece, No Country, then this would have been the best of the year, hands down.

    Your Top 5 for this year is excellent. It reminds me what an amazing year it was for film. Narrowing down to a Top 10 was very hard! That’s never bad.

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