Plot 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 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.
Verdict 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.
I watched the movie last night and boy, it was the longest two and a half hours in my life. It takes fourteen mintues for someone to say a word with lots of events unfolding during the uneasy silence. Then Daniel Plainview begins with his deep and cool voice, it's like he's telling the story to you. As the story goes on: meeting a disturbing Preacher, the oil going up in smoke, his son going deaf and meeting his brother only to find he might not be, it twists and turns until the brutal and horri... More
From Magnolia to Punch Drunk-Love,without forgetting Boogie Nights and Hard Eight,Paul Thomas Anderson dazzled us with his savoir-faire,his impressive and human subjects/screenplays and his capacity to direct actors(I'm thinking Mark Walbergh's performance in Boogie Nights,Adam Sandler's performance in Punch-Drunk Love or Julianne Moore's in Magnolia).But I could never imagine Anderson to step onto something as big as this.With it's symbolic,actual subject,it's devastating landscapes,it's incred... More
There will be blood it is a movie about a man called Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) who starts as hard worker in the search for oil. And one day he ends up finding an oil well alone and starts to get more ambitious and thirstier for wealth…
This movie directed and adapted to the big screen by Paul Thomas Anderson is kind of a blend between a western and an epic although it is not like most westerns or most epics, it’s not a very easy to watch movie and there may be always a cer... More
s no plot, no character development, the dialogue at times is cringeworthy and would be rejected by an Eastenders script writer - what keeps the attention in spite of all this is Day-Lewis' performance, which is exceptional.
The direction is all over the place, the artistic and narrative decision-making deliberately precious and obtuse; the best possible word to describe this film is pretentious.
It pretends to depths it most certainly does not achieve.
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 expect something a little less derivative and something wit... More
philistines ! love this film and am waiting till the DVD hits the sales at Play and then its a defo to buy. maffew I cannot understand how you could not sit through this but stomached Assassination of Jesse James. I recall having a good nap during that one. ... More
I tend to rate how good a film is by how distracted i get during it.. its generally making sandwiches or smoking or what have you. i could've made a three course meal during this film. I was shocked by how bored i was. It annoyed me a bit, because I'm generally excellent at sticking with films - the last time I was this bored and distracted was during Broken Flowers. I was looking forward to watching There Will Be Blood, although it wasn't very high on my list. Admittedly, DDL's ... More
I tend to rate how good a film is by how distracted i get during it.. its generally making sandwiches or smoking or what have you. i could've made a three course meal during this film. I was shocked by how bored i was. It annoyed me a bit, because I'm generally excellent at sticking with films - the last time I was this bored and distracted was during Broken Flowers. I was looking forward to watching There Will Be Blood, although it wasn't very high on my list. Admittedly, DDL's performance was... More
The best movie of the 21st century, in my opinion. PTA is a phenomenal director with an eye for great acting talent. We all knew how good Daniel Day Lewis was before this movie and he maintains that excellence here, but the rise of Paul Dano from bit part player to sharing the screen with someoone like Day Lewis was a hell of an acheivment. The fact that PTA worked with so many of the same actors in previous films, may have resulted in him casting someone he knew opposite Day Lewis, but he had ... More
Finally got around to seeing this last night. It really does deserve classic status. They /i] don't make them like this anymore in Hollywood-a proper piece of art, and PT Anderson is one of the only director's around trusted with the budget to make an epic movie that doesn't rely on flashy editing and a cliched plot. Day Lewis burns up the screen as Plainview-a total bastard, but a human one at that. The direction and cinematography are superb, the drama tense and thrilling (thanks in no small ... More
Brilliant Blood but surprisingly little in the end
Brilliant. A new classic. The epic is Anderson has always shown the potential for. Day Lewis is unforgettable--brooding, intense, loving, paranoid-- a man who lets his wealth cut himself off. Dano is okay, a little miscast but makes up for it in the end. ... More
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 expect something a little less derivative and som... More
I love this film. Daniel Day Lewis IS THE greatest actor of his generation and he proves it yet again. From his voice, to his posture, to his walk he becomes "Daniel Plainview" and it's a truly breathtaking and immense performance.
I can see people may find it dissapointing and I have friends who did'nt much care for it , it's a slow film that takes time to gather pace and then theres the ending that some may find out of place, but I loved every second of it. And of course Jonny Gre... More
I do agree that, although this was a good film with a memorable and excellent performance from DDL, I would not choose to watch it more than once. Unlike you, I did not think Dano had the gravitas to carry off the role of Daniel - not sure who I would have had play the role though (perhaps others could suggest an alternative actor) but DDL needed a much better sparring partner. I disliked the final scene where I feel DDL fell back into the ham acting he can, on occasion, be guilty o... More
There are no doubts of Day-Lewis's brilliance to be found in this film. As mentioned in one of the other reviews: "He doesn't play the character, he is the character" (paraphrasing slightly). I just found Daniel not that interesting of a character to watch this time. I felt that Daniel never actually managed to climb out of the dark pit into which he fell at the start of the film, searching for wealth from within a crack in the ground. Although he did find Eli at the bottom of that pit, and the... More
I was in a minority in finding this an exceedingly mediocre film, but absolutely no-one liked the ending, and views of the film itself were decidely mixed. Less facial hair than Gettysburg. Nice recreations of early drilling rigs - I did enjoy that. Ridiculous treatment of frontier religion. ... More
I was very, very underwhelmed with this. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But n's direction seemed aimless and distant Although he has the likes of Day-Lewis and Dano primed to deliver astounding performances too often he seems distracted away from them, but by what? always nothing more than promising, they scarcely get an opportunity to really deliver which is a terrible disappointmente no problem with Day-Lewis winning an Oscar for this,... More
I was very, very underwhelmed with this. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But n's direction seemed aimless and distant Although he has the likes of Day-Lewis and Dano primed to deliver astounding performances too often he seems distracted away from them, but by what? always nothing more than promising, they scarcely get an opportunity to really deliver which is a terrible disappointmente no problem with Day-Lewis winning an Oscar for this, I just feel for... More
I was very, very underwhelmed with this. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But n's direction seemed aimless and distant Although he has the likes of Day-Lewis and Dano primed to deliver astounding performances too often he seems distracted away from them, but by what? always nothing more than promising, they scarcely get an opportunity to really deliver which is a terrible disappointmente no problem with Day-Lewis winning an Oscar for this, I just feel formance is hamstru... More
This is easily the best film of 2008. No question. Atonement was showy, Michael Clayton was a bit slow, Juno isn't Oscar material but I loved it. No Country for Old Men the film that I didn't think would be beaten as in the screening of NCFOM I the trailer for There Will Be Blood and thought it looked dull. However when I read a 3 star review in the Daily Mail, I decided I would go see it because newspaper critics are always wrong. And I was blown away. It is unbelievable that in this year we ha... More
While I thought Day-Lewis fully deserved the best acting Oscar for an amazing performance I was left by the end feeling slightly underwhelmed considering the praise lavished upon this movie. I don't know but didn't anyone find it dragged at times?
Plus the way it shifted to his adopted son's adulthood and Plainview's embittered future with no explanation for his subsequent state of mind left me feeling an important chunk of story had gone missing.
That said the ... More
Day-Lewis's peformance is immense, and I don't think the final scene went over-the-top at all. His screen presence, his intoxicating voice, everything about his character is pitched perfectly from the off. Unfortunately the film can't decide whether it's a portrait of him as a man or telling the story of his conflict with Dano's preacher, and as a result the pacing is uneven and indecisive.
We get his relationship with his son, with other oil men, with the townspeople, but these ought to be a... More