There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The most talked about movie amongst the late arrivals at The Award Ceremonies Ball, 2008, doesn’t sit comfortably with a recognisable label. Not unlike Citizen Kane, you might think.

Think again.

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Ostensibly it is concerned with the birth pangs of the Californian oil boom in the same way that Giant was for Texas. At the turn of the last century, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) struck black gold when prospecting for silver, after which he single mindedly acquired land by fair means and foul until he could lay a pipeline to the sea.

Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia) is less interested in the devious dealings of budding oil magnates than the character of Plainview, an introspective, emotionally damaged loner, who’s history is as blurred as his morality. Are monsters born, or made? In the case of Plainview, he grows ever more irrational as wealth isolates him from human intercourse. He suspects friendship as much as philanthropy. Love is a word; death is a reason. There are no women, only guns and gushers. As for religion, it is used as a business tool. As for loyalty, it is ignored as an irrelevance.

Anderson deals in originality. That is his currency. Don’t expect anything to resemble something you might have seen before. Even the title is unexpected and, to a certain extent, inappropriate. Apart from Plainview, the supporting cast consists of a child/boy (Dillon Freasier) who goes deaf, a baby-faced evangelist (Paul Dano) with a twin brother who sells land to Plainview to build a church and a drifter (Kevin J O’Connor) who steals the identity of a dead man.

The locations are barren, the wells dark and dangerous. The distance from a lady of leisure in a satin cocktail gown is further than the cedars of Lebanon. California remains hogtied to the traditions of pioneer frontier families, half mad from the love of God and as unsophisticated as a ray of moonlight across a bare timber beam.

The film is disturbing. Plainview’s unpredictability is conveyed with disciplined exactitude by Day-Lewis, who physically dominates the screen, mentally dances with demons, refusing to address the stereotype. It is a performance so deeply embedded in strangeness that it becomes unique.

The fact that Anderson can create and Day-Lewis play a man as ruthless and unfeeling as this, while still retaining an hypnotic fascination, is a triumph of sorts. As for the ending, it will remain forever a mystery and a nonsense.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2008
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There Will Be Blood packshot
Gushers and guns and an emotionally damaged prospector in the early years of California's oil boom.
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Read more There Will Be Blood reviews:

Chris ****1/2

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel by Upton Sinclair

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dillon Freasier, Kevin J O'Connor, Russell Harvard, Ciaran Hinds, Sydney McCallister, Hans Howes, Colleen Foy

Year: 2007

Runtime: 158 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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