Review of “There Will Be Blood” (2007) R 158min
February 10th, 2008 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 8,659 Views
“There Will Be Blood” based on the novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Cigarettes & Coffee, Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia, and of course several episodes of Saturday Night Live) who also wrote the script. It was in theatres in wide release for a month now, but the seats were all sold out when I went to see it. Surely, a few things help to sell tickets, like nominations for 8 Oscars, an Eddie, BAFTA film award along with over 30 other wins and nominations.
The plot: In 1998 in New Mexico Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) was working in the silver mine, where he discovered some minerals that are typically associated with presence of oil. He hired a crew to drill for oil, including a man with an infant son. They indeed discover oil there, but the father of the infant dies in the industrial accident. Daniel adopts his infant son and names him H.W. (Harrison Taylor, Stockton Taylor). Nine years later he had a few productive wells, but was still a small-time “oil man”, as he presented himself to the community and investors. One day a young man named Paul Sunday walked into his house and offered to sell information about an oil field where oil was practically on the surface. Daniel bought that information and drove there with H.W. After he confirmed that the land the Sunday farm stands on the ocean of oil sands and oil mud. He convinced Sunday family to sell their land to them for very low price. At this point he was the owner of the huge oil field. He used the money he borrowed from the local church to begin developing this field and was on the way to becoming a prosperous oil man. But his predatory tactics had made him a lot of enemies. The most important one was a member of the Sunday family and a preacher at the local evangelical church, Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). Through the following years, Daniel’s lust for success helped him to become a successful oil man, but never brought any happiness. To the contrary, many lives were destroyed, including Daniel’s own.
The good: The acting was just superb by all the actors. Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York), Stockton Taylor, Kevin J. O’Connor (who played Benni in The Mummy & The Mummy Returns) gave fantastic performances. All of that would not be possible without excellent direction by Paul Thomas Anderson and the script he wrote.
One of the messages in this movie is that oil had been the curse for everyone who touched it. Daniel built a wealth on it, but he never shared it with the people he ripped off by tricking them into selling their land to him cheaply. Daniel’s other curse and sin were his pride, greed and ambition. He never trusted anyone. His mistrust and hatred for people was a factor in the murder he committed. “I hate all people”, Daniel said. When H.W. grew up and got married and decided to start his own oil business, Daniel realized H.W. would become his competition and his love for the boy turned into hatred instantly.
Another issue in this movie was religion. First of all Eli Sunday was a clown. He used his congregation’s religiousness and his showman’s skills to manipulate them. Ironically, Daniel eventually gave Eli the try of his own medicine. Secondly, Eli sold out his religion without much thinking for a fist full of dollars. Thirdly, religious people think they have prerogative on morals and that they are the only ones who know the truth, but they were just as full of sin as any other mortal.
The movie is also awesome as time period picture. The simplicity of life, the Wild West experience, the absence of labour protection laws, the toughness of people all come through in this vivid story.
The first 10 minutes of the movie have no music and no dialog. When Daniel falls down the silver mine’s shaft and breaks his leg he hauls himself back up. This sequence without words and music tell so much about his character!
Great sets and costumes. The oil drilling process is accurate enough to make a documentary.
The movie is two and a half hours long, but it doesn’t feel long because it’s packed with events and interesting characters.
The bad: Some actors performed too theatrically. This goes for Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano (Eli Sunday). That being said, both of their characters are salesmen: one sells the American Dream, the other – salvation of the immortal soul, but the final scene definitely felt like it was produced for stage. The musical score by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead (Children of Men, Sopranos, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, L’Auberge espagnole, Unfaithful, Vanilla Sky, Life as a House, Romeo + Juliet) was strange. Reminded me a lot of music in the “Last Man Standing“.
The summary: Very dramatic, terrifying movie with very powerful performances and great story. The best thing about this movie is you know that main characters ambition and greed will probably bring him wealth, but there will be blood and drama along the way.
** 80th Academy Awards (Oscars) Update (Feb 24, 2008) **
Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for Best Performance By An Actor In The Leading Role. Cinematographer Robert Elswit won the Oscar for Best Achievement In Cinematography.
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1910s | accidental death | alcoholic | based on novel | beaten to death | child abandonment | Daniel Day-Lewis | death | false profet | father and son relationship | impostor | industrial accident | loss of father | oil | orphan | pistol | shot in the head | silver mine | slap in the face | small town | twin brother
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