By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
There Will Be Blood is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil. The film follows Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), and we first meet him in 1898 where he is prospecting for gold. However, while climbing out of the tunnel he falls and breaks his leg. He nonetheless discovers a large silver sample and climbs out of the tunnel and drags himself to an assay office to collect his silver and gold certificate claim. Then in 1902 Daniel has discovered oil and has established a small oil drilling company. One of his workers dies in an accident; Daniel sees this as an opportunity to care for the workers’ child and use the child in a scheme for people to trust Daniel and let him drill on their land.
We then jump to 1911 when Daniel meets Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), who tells Daniel there’s tons of oil on his father’s land in Little Boston. Daniel and his “son” H.W. pose as quail hunters and scout the land to see if it’s true. Upon discovering it is, they go to make a deal with the head of the Sunday family, however; Eli Sunday (a pastor at the local church and Paul’s twin brother) sees through Daniel’s façade of being just a quail hunter and demands 10,000 dollars total for drilling purposes. From here is a fight for the town’s respect and money and land. It’s a story of family, religion, and greed. I don’t want to keep going because I don’t want to give everything away. This is one of those films everyone should see.
I don’t know what I can say about Day-Lewis’s performance that hasn’t already been said. It’s not only one of the greatest acting performances of the 21st century, but rather of all time. The character Daniel Plainview is larger than life, so the actor needed to play him had to be able to portray that. Day-Lewis has that ability to command the camera and the scene. No matter who is in the scene, he’s able to fill up the entire shot. Day-Lewis is one of our all-time great actors and even though he’s British he’s an American treasure.
Paul Dano is also a brilliant actor, even though his breakout was a year earlier with Little Miss Sunshine. I believe this film really showed his dramatic side as Eli Sunday. Eli goes from 0 to 60 quickly and Dano makes it look seamless and easy. For young actors it might be hard and intimidating to hold their own on screen with an actor of Daniel Day-Lewis’s caliber. Paul Dano is able to hold his own vs. this mighty character and actor and that’s a real testament to Paul’s talents.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s writing and directing at its best is unmatched in Hollywood. One of the best things is PTA knows his audience isn’t stupid. He doesn’t bog down his story with clunky dialogue. For instance, in the scene when Paul Sunday tells Daniel about the oil under the Sunday’s property Daniel doesn’t say “Well, why don’t H.W. and I pose as quail hunters and we’ll scout the land.” When a writer does this it slows down the movie because no one talks like that, plus the audience begins to get annoyed by the writer assuming the audience is too stupid to figure out what the character is doing.
PTA’s choices in directing and photography are true genius. I believe PTA is a true actors’ writer/director. There are scenes which PTA, instead of choosing to do a quick take or use multiple shots, will take a single camera and hold a shot on an actor, just letting the actor act their heart out. During Daniel’s oil speech or his scene when he’s talking about seeing the worst in people, you’re able to truly see into the characters’ soul, which in turn makes them feel real and genuine. The best example was in The Master during the processing scene. PTA knows the way behind the camera to get the most out of what’s in front of the camera.
PTA is able to almost say more with what he doesn’t show and tell. In the scene after Daniel falls down the tunnel and breaks his leg, we don’t see Daniel pull himself all the way to the assay office to claim his silver and gold certificate claim. However, the audience is able to infer everything about Daniel Plainview from what is not shown. How far and long he dragged himself to collect some money. We see he is in the middle of nowhere, so we know he must’ve dragged himself for miles. That says everything that needs to be conveyed about who Daniel Plainview is and what kind of a story we are in for. It’s absolute brilliance in filmmaking.
The cinematography is amazing in this film. The entire scene when the oil pump catches on fire is stunning, not only the set up to the explosion and the fire roaring out of the well, but the next scene when they set off the dynamite to put out the oil fire. The way the camera captures everything culminating with Daniel’s back to the camera as he signals the dynamite be brought in and set off is entirely captivating, all because of that camerawork. Also, the shot of Daniel covered in oil as darkness surrounds him and he’s staring at the fire with an almost evil grin because he knows there is an ocean of oil under the ground- at that moment we see how little he cares about the town, his workers’ safety, or his son’s well-being. Daniel only cares about money. It’s a brilliant shot that encapsulates Daniel Plainview.
One thing I love about Paul Thomas Anderson is his theme throughout all of his films of family and connection. He has a wide range of story choices, each film is unique story and different from the last; however all of his films are still connected though the theme of family and that without family one is doomed in life. This is most prevalent in There Will Be Blood. Daniel only cares about one thing in this world and that is money. He “adopts” a child for business purposes and there are scenes that show he actually cares about H.W. (Spoilers) However, in the end of the film when Daniel rids himself of all connections and H.W. tells him he’s leaving for good, Daniel has a visit from Eli Sunday. A dispute arises about the money Eli thought he was owed and Daniel kills Eli. When Daniel’s butler comes down Daniel loudly declares “I’m finished.” Not only is he done with Eli’s visit and his dinner, but he’s finished in life now without a family or a competitor to destroy (End Spoilers).
There Will Be Blood is an absolutely brilliant film. It’s one of those films that comes along every 10 to 15 years, an instant classic in American cinema. Paul Thomas Anderson is an absolute genius behind the camera and hopefully he has many more great films to come.
There Will Be Blood (2007) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time money is brought up.
Take a Drink: every time Day-Lewis faces gets red from yelling.
Do a Shot: every time Eli screams about the Devil.
Take a Drink: every time oil is mentioned.
Finish your Drink: for Milkshakes!