Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson has certainly established himself within the art of filmmaking. He has shown a unique talent when it comes to cinematic storytelling that can’t be questioned. Critics and moviegoers alike have flocked to his work singing their praises. That being said, I have to admit that I am a little lukewarm when it comes to Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. But I also have to admit that his 2007 masterpiece “There Will Be Blood” is sheer motion picture brilliance both in terms of writing and presentation. Loosely based on a 1927 Upton Sinclair novel, “There Will Be Blood” is a mesmerizing period drama and character study that I’ve never been able to let go of.
Now let me go ahead and get something out of the way. The biggest reason this movie is so profound is because of Daniel Day-Lewis’ towering performance. Now there’s no denying Anderson’s wonderful script and his brilliant use of the camera, but it’s Day-Lewis who dominates every scene with a performance that I believe is one of the best of all time. He plays Daniel Plainview, a shamelessly amoral oilman Seeking wealth during the California oil boom. He’s tipped off about a possible motherload of oil resting beneath the small and poor community of Little Boston, California. He heads there along with his adopted son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) to get drilling rights through any ruthless tactic necessary.
While in the Little Boston, Plainview runs into Eli (Paul Dano), an equally manipulative man who is the leader of the small charismatic congregation. I am no fan of Paul Dano, but he does a serviceable job playing this sniveling, disgusting huckster. There are several see where his performance really stands out. But he also has the unenviable job of sharing scenes with Day-Lewis and he’s often times not up to the task. The two characters but heads on numerous occasions as each seek their own ambitions regardless of who they must mislead to do it. It’s truly fascinating to watch and Anderson weaves several of his familiar themes throughout the unfolding of these characters.
But it’s the Plainview character that I keep coming back to. He’s certainly a vile and contemptible man. But there are other moments where he is so convincing that even the audience almost buys into what he saying. There are also scenes such as where he threatens an abusive father that adds to the overall complexity of this character. Day-Lewis channels all of this through a rugged and worn exterior mixed with a convincing John Huston-like voice that fits the character perfectly. Watching this great actor open up and dissect this character Is like watching a master hone his craft. He loses himself in the character and and we the audience are treated to a delightful experience.
I do want to take a little time to talk about the visuals. Anderson does a great job portraying a dirty and almost desolate environment. The Texas landscape works perfectly with the film’s tone and the camera captures it well. There are scenes that feature an almost poetic fluidity with the camera as well as some beautiful tracking shots. I also love the peculiar yet menacing soundtrack from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. The music lingers behind the scenes in an almost subtle way. But there are also specific moments where the music almost overtakes the scene yet it feels strikingly perfect. All of this works in unison to create a lively vibe yet disturbing undercurrent.
I truly love “There Will The Blood”. And while I won’t be mistaken for Paul Thomas Anderson’s biggest fan, this movie unequivocally proves to me that he is a genius filmmaker. It works on almost every level and I even found it’s scrutinized ending to be great fun. But more than anything it is another example of the brilliance of Daniel Day-Lewis. He won the Academy award for his performance and rightfully so. He drives this movie and you can’t take your eyes off of him. Combine that with Anderson’s creative prowess and you have a movie that will stay with me forever – a true classic.
VERDICT – 5 STARS