There Will Be Blood
A Film Review by Reginald Williams
Few movies produced today look as good as There Will Be Blood and just as much care was put into the script, even more so in some instances. There Will Be Blood is not a perfect film because of its last 20 minutes but its pretty close to it. No Country for Old Men also had a non-traditional ending but that ending made a little more sense than the ending for There Will Be Blood. The strength of There Will Be Blood lies firmly on Daniel Day-Lewis’ shoulders. Day-Lewis’ character, Daniel Plainview, is a complicated, semi-tortured individual totally self-sufficient and self-made.
The setting of There Will Be Blood is California in the late 1800’s and Plainview is prospecting on one of his claims for silver. When he finds enough, he buys a plot of land that may or may not contain oil. During the archaic procedure of bringing that oil to the surface, one of Plainview’s employees is killed and his child is left orphaned. Plainview takes the child as his own and brings him, H.W. (Dillion Freasier), to his future meetings dealing with oil concerns. H.W. is introduced as his son and partner and they act as such for most of the film’s runtime.
This relationship is tested by many outside forces, some fortunate for the two of them; some trying and a few that test the limits of their bond. I could spoil what they are but that would be detrimental to your viewing experience. I had one such moment ruined for me by an ill-conceived television commercial that spoiled a key event in this film. It actually spoiled two or three aspects of the film for me because I surmised what was going to happen before seeing it as I watched the film.
If you have ever seen Lawrence of Arabia or a film were the environment was a attraction and filmed as a supporting character in the film, you have a pretty good idea of what you will see when viewing There Will Be Blood. From all of the hype surrounding this film, you also expect the performance that Daniel Day-Lewis delivers. One moment he is the loving, concerned father of H.W., the next he is ignoring and neglecting him for the sake of increasing his oil fortune. It is clear that Plainview has affection for H.W., may even love him but his overriding, hard-rooted personality gets in the way. He says at one point in the film that: “I have a competition in me. I don’t want anyone else to win.” This small glimpse into his core personality during a conversation with his dubious half-brother Henry Brands (Kevin J. O’Connor) allows the viewer to see how a pivotal conversation at the end of There Will Be Blood could conclude the way that it does.
Also of note in There Will Be Blood is the performance by Paul Dano as Paul Sunday, a would-be preacher and servant of God in need of money. Sunday acquires his initial funding by selling out his family and the vast fortune they could have had that resides right under their feet, a decision he later blames on his father Abel (David Willis). When Sunday begins giving his sermons half way through There Will Be Blood, some self-serving, some vengeful, Dano turns in a performance that speaks of the kind of actor he will be when his skill matures. Day-Lewis’ Plainview finds these sermons very entertaining, referring to them as a “good show.”
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a throw back to the way films used to be made and presented. Another example of this venerable form of presentation would be Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. Robert Elswit needs to be commended for the shots he captured as There Will Be Blood’s cinematographer and most likely will be at this years Oscars as will Daniel Day-Lewis. There Will Be Blood is just a great film to look at, even more so than Road to Perdition. This film also never talks down to the audience. It relies on their intelligence to fill in what could be seen as gaps throughout the time-frame of the film, something few films do now-a-days.