One of the most affecting and effective films of all time, “There Will Be Blood” is a triumphant masterpiece from Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the most inspirational and inspired directors of the twenty-first century.
Not only does the film feature the best performance by any actor of the year with Daniel Day-Lewis as the fictional greedy oil-tycoon Daniel Plainview, but it might change the way we watch movies.
Day-Lewis’ Plainview is a man who lives, breathes and sometimes eats oil. He is not a stupid man, although sometimes stubborn due to his blind lust for success.
At the beginning of the film, we see him digging for gold by himself. Doing this, he breaks his leg and must crawl out of his man-made tunnel to go and sell his treasure. From this point, we know that Plainview is a man who looks out for himself and will not let anything get in his way.
A few years later, he is in the oil business, and receives a tip about a large amount of land that has a large amount of oil.
As we watch Plainview take over this land, it is like watching an artist creating a beautiful work of art. Plainview knows people. He has the unbelievable knack for seeing what people want and giving it to them without really giving them anything. A great deal of that encouragement style can be attributed to the look in Day-Lewis’ eyes as he reads the other characters. He truly believes what he’s saying, but as the audience, we’re all in on his ultimate plan of success.
The rest of the film is quite complex, revealing multiple story lines that all improve upon the immovable ego that is Daniel Plainview. A major subplot of the story revolves around an unfortunate accident involving his son H.W. (played by Dillon Freasier). For many reasons, Plainview sends his son away. He is an extremely stubborn character in the sense that he will commit quite shameful acts just to feed his success, but there are many subtle and non-subtle hints that he acknowledges his own shame. Day-Lewis easily delivers all of this in the blink of an eye.
Day-Lewis unearths this amazing character. In one of the best performances of all time. His performance is the kind that students learn about in acting and film classes, something that will be revered for years to come. He never leaves character, and even in Plainview’s weakest moments, Day-Lewis remains strong. Through the entire film, the British actor brings more and more to his character, and at the very end, he reaches a level of intense yet satisfying characterization that is hardly ever seen on film.
What’s really surprising is Day-Lewis’ ability to make this larger-than-life character seem human. In any other actor’s hands, this character could have seemed overly ridiculous, but Day- Lewis turns Daniel Plainview into a real person to whom we can actually relate.
The character who tips off Plainview about the oil at the beginning of the film is Paul Sunday, played by the startlingly talented Paul Dano. Sunday spends very little time on screen, but we are later introduced to his “brother” Eli (also played by Dano), a fiery young preacher of the town where Plainview is drilling. Paul is rarely mentioned throughout the rest of the movie, so it is questionable that he actually exists in a physical sense. At the very end of the film, it is suggested that Paul is more of a metaphorical character. It is these literary licenses taken by the writer/director Anderson that turns the film into unabashed art.
Dano may unfortunately be dismissed during this year’s awards distribution, but his performance is quite moving. At first, he seems to be overacting, but then it becomes obvious that he has dug into this character. When Eli delivers his first sermon, he creates a terrifying force of nature which will make your spine quiver and your heart stop. This performance is vastly different from his role in the pitch-perfect “Little Miss Sunshine,” and it is immensely refreshing to see him giving such a superb personification of terror.
This is a separation from the genre that Anderson usually works in, but it really has his signature flair. It’s not the common American classic, and works really hard to be unlike every film that it resembles. Everything works imperfectly, which is terrifically perfect. Instead of creating the usual western-style film, Anderson removes all predictability and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
Anderson is one of the most inspirational and inspired directors of our time. His work is sensational, and will probably inspire many younger directors looking for a new way of filmmaking. While the film is very innovative, it also shows Anderson’s respect and gratitude towards filmmakers such as John Ford (for the spectacular landscapes), Alfred Hitchcock (the haunting usage of blackouts and music) and more specifically, Orson Welles. “There Will Be Blood” is truly the modern “Citizen Kane” – from its egocentric hero to its spectacular style of storytelling to its directorial licenses.
Speaking of music, the entire film is sealed with an intense and powerful score. Jonny Greenwood of the Brit-band Radiohead created all the original music for the film, and with the high concentration of violins and cellos, the score will ultimately be compared to Bernard Herrmann’s symphonic masterpiece featured in “Pyscho.” This is a very good comparison because the music also serves as a separate character in the film, something that adds a level of tension that hits you right in the face at the very beginning of the film.
“There Will Be Blood” is a modern masterpiece, and the film that Anderson was born to make and for which he will be remembered. Daniel Day-Lewis has never been better, and American audiences can truly say that they have never seen a film like this or a performance like his in their entire lives. This is a movie that will not be forgotten.