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Daniel Day-Lewis
Paul Dano
Ciaran Hinds
Dillon Freasier.
Paul Thomas Anderson.
Paul Thomas Anderson.
Running Time
158 minutes

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There Will Be Blood
It does what it says on the tin

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Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) is a silver prospector-turned-oil man, working his way from a single-man dig to mini-mogul status. On a tip from Paul Sunday (Dano), he travels to a small town in search of black gold, with his adoptive son H. W. (Freasier) in tow. But there, Eli Sunday (Dano), Paul’s twin, throws roadblocks in his path.

There Will Be Blood
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There Will Be Blood is emphatically not an easy watch. Before an image hits the screen, a mounting, atonal string note assaults the viewer’s ears, immediately inducing a feeling of unease - if not actual nausea. That’s followed by 20-odd minutes of dialogue-free action. Two and a half hours later, it finishes with a scene that seems tonally so at odds with everything that has gone before, jars so horribly, that you’re afraid it’s scuppered the entire thing - until you go home, think about it for a day or two, and realise that it’s perfect. It won’t come to you immediately, but this may be a masterpiece.

This is a film full of such surprises. Despite being the first outing in four years for directorial wunderkind Paul Thomas Anderson, despite starring the oft-retired Daniel Day-Lewis, whose returns are usually the cause of critical celebration, There Will Be Blood seemed to arrive without anticipation, never mind fanfare. It skipped Cannes, Venice and Toronto, and screened quietly just before awards season. There’s a confidence to that strategy, a robust self-belief that could almost belong to the film’s Daniel Plainview, played by Day-Lewis in what is, even by his standards, an incredible performance.

A protagonist rather than a hero, Plainview is a man of impressive grit and untrammelled greed who pulls himself up by the bootstraps to turn from lone prospector to oil mogul. When we first see him, he’s sweaty, dirt-covered and hacking at a rock wall with a pickaxe at the bottom of a jerry-rigged mine. He risks life and limb for a few nuggets of silver, the tickets to his next move - oil. With a few hardy employees, yet more months in the desert, and a lethal mix of primitive machinery and scanty health-and-safety regulations, he strikes it lucky. But soon an industrial accident leaves Plainview holding a baby, whom he adopts as his son H. W. (Dillon Freasier), for reasons that are not initially clear.

It’s only after this long, wordless opening that the central conflict begins. Ten years have passed, and Plainview is pitching for the purchase of oil rights in a new town. Finally, we hear his voice, and his seductive, sonorous words roll his audience into the palm of his hand. Day-Lewis based Plainview’s speech on John Huston, and it’s almost a character in its own right - the sort of gruff, rich tones one somehow associates with walrus moustaches and cigars, weighted with authority and nearly impossible to dispute. After a tip-off from a young man called Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), Plainview heads to the town of Little Boston, California, where the black stuff oozes from the virgin earth. There he finds himself in competition for the town’s acceptance with Paul’s twin brother Eli Sunday (also Dano), a charismatic preacher with an even more compelling voice than Plainview himself. Eli makes an alternative offer of redemption and deliverance from the hardships of frontier life, through faith rather than wealth. His is a spitting, shrieking brand of religion that bullies belief from his congregation, squeezing it out of them with the power of his oratory and the (apparently) unshakeable conviction with which he believes.

The clash between these two titanic egos is the heart of the film: Plainview affecting a hail-fellow-well-met humility that veils but does not hide his greed; Sunday projecting an otherworldly serenity that masks a similarly venal streak. Plainview’s contempt for Sunday’s brand of evangelism is apparent, but he carefully avoids direct confrontation, choosing his ground and biding his time. An uncapped well (in a breathless and breathtaking scene) demonstrates both the terrifying dangers and potential riches of his enterprise for the local community, giving some clue as to the literally seismic shifts this industry has caused when it came to town. Sunday, meanwhile, acting as if he has all eternity to win Plainview’s soul (and therefore assert his moral authority over this upstart intruder), is increasingly befuddled by the depths to which his opponent will venture in pursuit of this great new resource, and while he gets a brief moment of triumph, it is snatched back from his grasp before he can truly taste victory.

If these two represent the wider forces of religion and capitalism and the role they’ve played in America’s development, then the picture that Anderson paints of his nation’s soul is bleak indeed. Both Plainview and Eli are corrupt, out primarily to consolidate their own power; both sell their snake-oil schemes with promises to better those who follow them; both ultimately betray those who choose to believe in them. Plainview at least is approaching honest about his perfidy, but the rot runs deeper in him than anyone - there are no depths to which he will not stoop in pursuit of more land, more money, more oil. It’s a chilling portrait, and one which, while bafflingly evil, somehow never strays from believability - Gangs Of New York’s Bill The Butcher serving as a test run. Eli’s faults are not in the same league, but his hypocrisy and inability to stomach the competing presence of another alpha male erode any sympathy we might have had.

Around these two, the rest of the cast barely get a look-in, the only exception being Freasier as the young H. W. A largely silent child, he’s the best clue we have to Plainview’s inner life, following his father dutifully - or is that resignedly? While there is an element of convenience to their relationship, which allows Plainview to paint himself as a family man as well as an oil man, it appears that they have a genuine bond, even if Plainview himself would (and does) deny it. Even in the end, to what extent Plainview is a pure sociopath remains debatable - does he completely lack human feeling, or merely choose ruthlessly to suppress it? That last scene does tend to suggest the former. It’s like the gusher after the long, slow build-up of pressure through the film, an explosion of high drama after the low-key tension and unease that characterise the preceding two hours. It feels almost cartoonish, out of step, and it’s unquestionably ripe for parody - Day-Lewis rolling lines around in his mouth like candy and spitting them viciously out again. He blows and bellows (“Draiiiiiinaaaage!”), stripped of any need to charm or cajole at last. But on reflection it’s almost a twist, a reveal of how all the film’s themes tie together, when the characters are at their most naked and the consequences of their actions laid bare. Like much of this film, it’s discomfiting at best, but impossible to tear your eyes away from.

Uncompromising, intelligent and searing cinema. Along with The Assassination Of Jesse James... and No Country For Old Men, this is the best batch of Western-set dramas in decades. John Huston would have been proud.

Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for There Will Be Blood
Empire Star Rating

RE: There will be brilliance

Greatest movie of all times.... ... More

Posted by Lord Varys at 15:06, 23 September 2014 | Report This Post

DREEENAAGE.....a.k.a Andersson's MASTERPIECE and Lewis best performance!

A film that hits you like a fever, "There Will Be Blood" is not the kind of movie that someone will have the pleasure of watching or reviewing. It is a portrait of several layers of everything that comes with the desire for power, will leave the audience feeling exhausted and with a bitter taste in the mouth. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film is submitted safely and confidently. Anderson proves to be one of the best director of all time, a fact that is evident here. Packed wi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ralph25 at 15:55, 12 April 2013 | Report This Post

PTA's Masterpiece

The best film so far this century, in my opinion. Easily in my top ten of all time. Day-Lewis also gives the most outstanding performance I've ever seen by an actor. Yeah, as you can probably tell, I love this movie. ... More

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Posted by Mr Gittes at 00:23, 09 February 2013 | Report This Post

There Will Be Blood Review

Widely touted as a masterpiece, this sparse and sprawling epic about the underhanded heroes of capitalism boasts incredible performances from both Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, and is director Paul Thomas Anderson's best work to date. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 22:26, 03 March 2012 | Report This Post

i drink your milkshake

Day lewis almost steals the spotlight from p.t andersons direction but steals it back in the end. there must be something behind Paul sunday, thats what intrigues me!!!!!!! CLASSIC ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dirk Diggler 619 at 12:41, 28 May 2011 | Report This Post

There Will Be Oscars

Tremendous film powered by an astonishing performance by Daniel Day Lewis. This is quite slow throughout, but never boring, and it has a brilliant final hour. Paul Dano is also brilliant as Paul and Eli Sunday, but this is Lewis' film. Showing quiet menace, his descent into madness is chartered well throughout. There are some masterful scenes here, the best of which is the oil rig explosion, that is one of the dramatic scenes I've ever seen. There's a reason this is an oscar winner. It's amazing... More

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Posted by hjfleeds at 11:49, 24 October 2010 | Report This Post

Each to their own....

I see a few on this site struggling to be sucked into the worldview of Plainview and that's understandable because it's a tough watch. However,i personally was impressed by TWBB first time around and the second time i started to appreciate it more,much as i did with Punch Drunk Love and Magnolia(both films i consider worthy of my top 25). Daniel Day Lewis is indeed brilliant here and Dano puts up an admirable if losing fight both in performance and character,the music,for me works as it keeps ... More

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Posted by otacons folly at 04:23, 18 August 2010 | Report This Post

Like and old-classic me thinks

Not boring, not dut dull I found it to be very pacy and thrilling, it's my favourite of P.T.A anderson movies ... More

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Posted by monkeyhumour at 05:33, 21 April 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Hmm.

L: Dantes Inferno L: directorscut This is undoubtedly an excellently made film.  However, and I am surprised that I haven't heard or read it somewhere else, there does seem to be a distinct case of "I've seen this before."  ill Be Blood ty much i] + Kanence Upon a Time in the West little sprinkling of asure of the Sierra Madre in.  For a film that "creates a new cinematic language" (para, Kermode) and that is terrific in most other regards I'd ex... More

Posted by Axel Foley at 18:57, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Good but what is the point?

Each to his own. Some people have said it dragged for them but for me it was the most gripping two and a half hours i have ever experienced in a cinema. I was fascinated from the opening shot and not only is Daniel Day Lewis brooding and terrifying and  inhuman but is a great juxstaposition to Eli until we begin to realise how similar they are. In my opinion criminally overlooked in awards season. ... More

Posted by TheSpleen at 10:03, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Good but what is the point?

I thought the performance by DDL was very good and some of the themes interesting, but it ultimatly was unsatisfying. My first problem with the film is the score, the dreadful overpowering score, every moment while they peacefully prospect for oil the score giving a "the killer is behind you" ominous music. the second problem is what is the point of it all in the end. He slowly decends into madness that much is true, is this supposed to as crude a message as this is all due to the pur... More

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Posted by JagLover at 08:39, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post

Still dull

Apparently according to some rather pompous members of this website, people who do not rate this film are idiots. Really - well I would apply that term to anyone who rates a person's intelligence based solely upon their taste in film. As for There Will Be Blood it still seems dreary, disjointed and quite frankly as disappointing on a second viewing as it was the first time. Citizen Kane does it all so much better. ... More

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Posted by Uncle_Ethan at 21:45, 22 December 2009 | Report This Post


but even better with a phat "herbal cigarette". ... More

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Posted by natman_begins at 17:18, 14 September 2009 | Report This Post

RE: There will be brilliance

L: skeleton I do not like that kinds of movies! Grammar aside, what types of movie don't you like? ... More

Posted by tftrman at 09:25, 01 June 2009 | Report This Post

RE: There will be brilliance

I do not like that kinds of movies! ... More

Posted by skeleton at 04:48, 01 June 2009 | Report This Post

RE: There Will Be Blood

A very powerful piece - It's like a study of the character that Daniel Day Lewis plays, as you slowly get to see more and more of this terrifying man, rather than a story with a beginning, middle and end. It's very uncomfortable to watch at times, but fascinating at the same time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gamba at 14:07, 29 May 2009 | Report This Post


Mesmerising performance from Day-Lewis who always guarantees your moneys worth at the DVD store. Over 2 hours long, I never looked at my watch once. Fascinating study of a man obsessed by his ambition whose soul diminishes as fast as his bank account rises. yet another triumph for PT Anderson... ... More

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Posted by dhowdy at 10:53, 10 May 2009 | Report This Post



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Posted by WiseGuy101 at 03:54, 05 February 2009 | Report This Post

There Will Be Brilliance

yes it was long and very very strange but the performances, score and paul thomas anderson set this film apart from the rest. daniel day lewis and paul dano dominate the screen with their searing, intense and gripping rivalry with a film with themes such as oil, religion, money, greed, family and rivalry. the score by johnny greenwood is immense and carries the film through the opening 15 minutes where there is no dialogue. also the directing and scirpt by paul thomas anderson completes the pack... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by THE DALTONATOR at 12:38, 28 January 2009 | Report This Post

There will be blood

If reading one of the user rating reviews, please ignore uncle-Ethan and his gang of inane followers who choose to submit the review of this film four times on a mediocre score. Instead read Ingmar Tarkovsky and shawshank prisoner as they deliver pitchperfect short reviews on this simply mesmerising film. To put it simply, this has to be one of the finest films ever made with a "cliched" performance of a life-time from Day-Lewis. "I drink your Milkshake". Anderson certainly d... More

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Posted by Blue Ryan at 18:31, 20 January 2009 | Report This Post

There Will Be Blood

Fantastic performance, average film. ... More

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Posted by Uncle_Ethan at 15:46, 03 January 2009 | Report This Post

It’s a usual occurrence to not see Daniel Day-Lewis for quite a long period of time after he makes a movie. The reasons given are wide and varied, but in all honesty I am glad he does cos all of his movies tend to be of the kind that seriously test you mentally. After two and a half hours of this, a break is most definitely needed. There Will Be Blood tells the story of Daniel Plainview, a ruthless Oil baron, who will stop at nothing to lie, cheat or steal his way into high riches and m... More

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Posted by gepete80 at 11:42, 23 December 2008 | Report This Post

RE: There Will Be Boredom.

Best film of the year. 10/10. People who don't like it are, quite frankly, idiots. ... More

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Posted by shawshank prisoner at 15:48, 26 November 2008 | Report This Post

RE: There Will Be Boredom.

I won't quote anyone but some of the inane criticisms I've read on this thread make me despair slightly.  ... More

Posted by hatebox at 14:42, 25 November 2008 | Report This Post

RE: There Will Be Boredom.

Finally got round to watching this on shiny bluray as I missed it in the cinema, have to say its not an easy watch but DDL is incredible in it, a lot of strange scenes and especially the music, but the oil well fire was one of the best things I'd seen in a movie in ages, the whole scene was incredible to watch, the ending is very strange not to mention brutal, its almost like the twins were parts of Plainviews conscience, one the spiritual side and one the capitalist side, and the capitalist on... More

Posted by krudler at 22:57, 23 November 2008 | Report This Post

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