There Will Be Blood
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
By Ian Passy
Well it’s finally upon us – the filmic doldrums. From January to March, Hollywood releases all of the garbage that no one wants to watch. Even if they did, they wouldn’t, because it ranges from miserable to bullshit. After careful consideration of these factors, I decided that the recent release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film There Will Be Blood must be some sort of mistake, because this is quite a film. So there you have it: it’s January and yet there is a film worth watching.
Here we have a markedly different film from Paul Thomas Anderson’s (not to be confused with Paul W. S. Anderson – the man with the fecal touch) oeuvre. There Will Be Blood is not Punch-Drunk Love or Boogie Nights or Magnolia. It stands out from the rest of PTA’s work as a step in a new direction, and arguably a better one for the filmmaker. This film is more focused, darker, and less quirky that the director’s previous films. For There Will Be Blood, loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, this change works very well. Those expecting more of what they saw in previous PTA films may be disappointed, but I urge them to stop being crybabies over it because they’re going to miss a gripping cinematic experience.
There Will Be Blood is about a turn-of-the-century American oil tycoon named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis). Mr. Plainview is a Machiavellian fellow who cares about nothing but personal, mainly financial, success. His quest for oil and wealth brings him and his young son to a small Texas town where he finds the potential to amass a great deal of oil and money. However, despite his abilities, his goal is not so easily achieved due to the resistance of the townspeople, especially a maniacal young preacher by the name Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). Throughout the film, Plainview finds himself at odds with everyone he comes into contact with as he attempts to secure his derricks and personal fortune.
Despite the concept of drilling for oil all over the state of Texas, the scope of the film is rather narrow. It focuses almost exclusively on Daniel Plainview, as the character appears in almost every single scene. There Will Be Blood has a relatively small cast and essentially only the two main characters. This makes for a slow paced, yet intense, character-driven narrative. As the film progresses one realizes the distinctions between good and evil are not so clear. PTA does an excellent job of allowing the characters to develop as the story progresses. Their actions and motives become clearer without it being contrived and obvious.
The world created by PTA in There Will Be Blood, in which Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday struggle against each other, adds greatly to the story. PTA’s depiction of the Texas landscape is marvellous. He finds beauty in a deserted wasteland. The pacing, scripting, and execution of almost every frame feels meticulous and well thought out. Not to give anything away, but the last scene of the film is the best, and possibly the best scene ever filmed, period. Of course, PTA is known for his attention to detail and subtleties, and There Will Be Blood is no exception. He took his time making this film and made sure everything was as close to perfect as he could make it. This film will require and entice more than one viewing.
Unfortunately, there is so much to say about There Will Be Blood and so little space to say it. However, I have to point out the excellent work by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. Day-Lewis and his character are such stunning forces in this film that it’s commendable that someone as young as Dano was able to hold his own on screen next to him.