There Will Be Blood, the latest film from director Paul Thomas Anderson started as a writing exercise for him adapting some of Upton Sinclair’s work and eventually it turned into a full-blown film. There Will Be Blood follows the story of Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-century prospector turned oil man whose ambition leads him to the town of North Boston, California, where he has made the oil discovery of his life, and in his way stands one of the sons of the family that sells Plainview the land, Eli Sunday, the preacher of the Church of the Third Revolution, both vying for ultimate control of the other in this story of family, greed, religion and ambition gone awry.
P.T. Anderson’s filmography includes the films Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punchdrunk Love and with just those four films, he’s shown that he’s a major writing and directing talent. With There Will Be Blood he cements that even further, presenting a film that at least in my eyes is something like the greatest Stanley Kubrick film not directed by Kubrick. This one’s got it all, great cinematography, a terrific score and absolutely fantastic performances from it’s lead actors, Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano.
The thing is though, this one ain’t for everyone, folks, not by any means, especially if our audience was any indication. We had maybe 30 people in to see this for a 10:15 showtime last night and before the film had ended, nearly a third of them had walked out. It’s hardly a straightforward film by any means, though it’s timeline is fairly linear, there’s nothing there that really leads an audience. This asks for something out of an audience as well and at least in my eyes, the walkouts weren’t ready to give it.
It also doesn’t exactly give you characters to root for, rather being this character study of greed and ambition and the ends to which they can take you. Now with that said though, I can’t say enough good stuff about the leads here. Daniel Day-Lewis is virtually channeling the legendary John Huston in his performance, yet totally making it his own as well, especially by the tumultuous ending. Paul Dano proved in Little Miss Sunshine that he has the chops for fine dramatic work, and he carries it out well here, playing a significantly quieter character than Day-Lewis’ Plainview, but in his zealotism able to explode against what would be considered his character type. Throughout the film, the two carry on a battle of wills that escalates with each one getting the upper hand, and both actors do a fine job getting there.
Anderson does a terrific job of setting his stage and showing you what a tough life this was. This feels like he’s researched his subject matter well and while it’s hardly a study of what the oil business is all about, it does all feel authentic. This is a long film, weighing in at nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes, and it would certainly feel that way even moreso without the terrific score of Johnny Greenwood, which sets in a tension mood right from the very start of the film. It’s probably the best score I’ve heard in a film all year, and it’s a shame that Greenwood wasn’t given a nomination for his work.
I think this is just an absolutely terrific movie and so far, at least in my eyes, P.T. Anderson is batting a thousand with his body of work. I’ve already assembled my Top 10 Movies of 2007 list, keeping the provision that this film could certainly enter into that after I saw it, and it certainly has, but at the same time, I don’t want to throw anything off of that list, so I’d say with There Will Be Blood that list has now become my Top 11 Movies of 2007. Highly, highly recommended but only for those who are either fans of P.T. Anderson’s work in general, or those willing to work with the film as it unfolds in front of you… just great stuff here…