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There Will Be Blood: Savagely Stirring

The opening scenes of There Will Be Blood are like a preview for the superb Daniel Day-Lewis performance to follow. For the movie's first 15 or so minutes, there is not a bit of dialog — only silence interspersed with the dissonant, deep-stringed musical score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. The action focuses solely on the grueling labor at hand. It's a striking way to start a story and also a metaphor for Day-Lewis's portrayal of Daniel Plainview, whose outbursts are as sinister as his silence and who lives for nothing but the pursuit of oil.

Based loosely on Upton Sinclair's Oil!, this movie is strange and hard to pigeonhole, and that's one of the main reasons I enjoyed it. It's a tale of two megalomaniacs, representing capitalist and religious greed, that at times has the feel of a horror film. The other big reason to savor There Will Be Blood is for Day-Lewis's eerie performance, which is hands down one of the year's best, so


The majority of the movie's action takes place in the early 20th century in a small California town where Plainview has come to prospect with his 10-year-old son, H.W. (Dillon Freasier). If Plainview and his men find oil, he pledges to fund the local church, run by a weaselly little preacher named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). Though the town eventually strikes it rich, the wealth comes at a cost, including disasters and family drama, failed attempts at religious conversion, and one heart-breaking accident.

Dano, who I loved in Little Miss Sunshine, is great as the politely manipulative Eli, a pre-TV version of a televangelist. And Day-Lewis is one of those rare actors totally consumed by a character — not because he puts on an accent or grows facial hair (although he does) but because everything about his manner and psyche seems transformed. With Plainview, he perfectly illustrates the struggle between greed versus compassion, creating a man so misanthropic, he cannot even bring himself to care about the people he longs to love.

The problem with There Will Be Blood is that it lacks a unified, tension-building plot and instead feels more like a series of interlocking conflicts. Director Paul Thomas Anderson chooses to focus more on the struggle between capitalism and religion than that of greed versus compassion, but by the shocking and riveting final scene, it's not clear which side he wants to win.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Vantage

Join The Conversation
Nan-Einhart Nan-Einhart 9 years
This was a disturbing film on so many levels. Daniel Day Lewis was incredible as an actor, but the character he played was so hard to watch. I found the music in the beginning interesting, but totally jarring. It obviously heralded the events to come. I think this film was emblematic of some of what it takes to make it big and to be a pioneer. Some of it is not pretty. Acting in all the parts was amazing.
juju4 juju4 9 years
My husband and I watched this on Saturday, and we still haven't stopped discussing it!
dsbnh369 dsbnh369 9 years
The lack of clarity in the final scene is one of the best things about the movie. That is part of what makes it so memorable.
mindgrapes mindgrapes 9 years
I would have to disagree with Buzz's comment on lacking plot. It was certainly more character and theme driven, which was done astonishingly. At over two and a half hours, I was engaged the entire time. Daniel Day Lewis is a madman/genius of an actor. This move is epic, and will probably be discussed in film school 50 years from now. Though it deals with classic American motifs (family, religion, greed), it is a thoroughly modern movie. The new Citizen Kane.
elizabethgracef elizabethgracef 9 years
I love Paul Dano, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis so I'm stoked for this. It needs to hurry up and come out here!
foxie foxie 9 years
Can't wait to see it. I am LOVING Paul Dano.
littlemissme littlemissme 9 years
Paul Thomas Anderson! Sorry :OY:
littlemissme littlemissme 9 years
I had no idea this movie was made by PA Andersson! Now I definitely want to see this one :D Looooved Magnolia :) Oh! And yay for Paul Dano!
yaliyah yaliyah 9 years
This movie is now on my Must-see list!
pinkflats pinkflats 9 years
i've heard so many great things about this movie, will definitely watch it.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 9 years
I'm soooooooo excited to see this! I heard that too minamin..
minaminamina minaminamina 9 years
I was reading that whenever Day-Lewis takes on a film role, he completely lives his characters life throughout the entire filming process. For example, when he filmed My Left Foot, he stayed in his wheelchair and crew had to carry him over wires and stuff - being pissed off at him the whole time. He did it to feel the abuse of people who resented needing to care for him, just like in the movie. He's so awesome I cannot wait to see this film.
laneylaney laneylaney 9 years
I loved this movie so much.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
This tops my list of must-see movies. Daniel Day Lewis is such an amazing actor.
ccsugar ccsugar 9 years
Can't wait to see this!
juliette juliette 9 years
I've been dying to see this film ever since I saw the first trailer months ago. I've never seen any of PT Anderson's work before, but I'm a big fan of Daniel Day-Lewis and Johnny Greenwood who did the soundtrack for the film. Hopefully it'll be playing somewhere close by me very soon.
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 9 years
We've got plans to see this movie this weekend. I'm kind of excited about it. Daniel Day-Lewis is always fantastic, and I'm a big fan of Boogie Nights and Magnolia although I was a little disappointed in Punch-Drunk Love. I'm excited to see how PT Anderson does with this different type of movie, though.
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