There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood


Reviewed by: Chris

At a time when oil in movies is usually about modern day strife – Syriana, Total Denial, A Crude Awakening – cinemagoers are maybe ready for a good old fashioned epic about the pioneering days of the industry.

There Will Be Blood follows Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a man of the earth in 1898. In a few years, he goes from precious metals to the black stuff. Plainview pits himself against the elements and always triumphs. And expects no less when people enter the equation.

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Plainview embodies the spirit of capitalism, minus redeeming features. He digs. He conquers. He spits out blood and oil. And he generally hates people. They have nothing that he can respect and God fares not much better. He can perfectly enunciate the necessary lip-service to appease either the Almighty or the Common Weal if business demands it, but only as a last resort.

On the day that he opens a big new well, the local pastor (Abel) comes along to bless it. Plainview adapts the words and blesses it himself, leaving Abel speechless.

Having bought up most of the land, or leases to drill oil, only one man – an old-timer named Bandy - stands in his way. Bandy will sell only on condition that Plainview is baptised. The humiliation at the hands of Abel is a grudge that will one day be settled.

Various subplots involve a son who goes deaf and the seeming appearance of Plainview's brother. Both are beautifully woven into the story to examine the oil patriarch's human emotions - and lack of them.

In some ways, There Will Be Blood recalls the 1956 James Dean film, Giant. Giant was based on the life of a Texas oilman, Glenn McCarthy. Daniel Day-Lewis’ oil character reminds me somewhat of George W Bush. But I have to admit that the greedy win-at-any-cost picture is a little too black-and-white for me, even though I am no fan of profiteers who mix business with politics. Whatever human faults are triggered by the oil business, it is also the major enabler of our modern western society. Should the oil man not get some credit for the riches brought to the world, even if they were brought through selfish motives? In the demonisation of Plainview, this is entirely ignored.

There Will Be Blood is a superb achievement in filmmaking, a story from a traditional mould told with immense skill and gigantic performances. It grips from beginning to end and covers an important period of history. It is a great work easily accessible to every cinemagoer, which puts it in a different category from director Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier works. I loved his Magnolia, but frogs falling from the sky are not everyone’s idea of a good ending to an elaborate soap drama. There Will Be Blood is the film that will probably survive him and be looked back on with near universal respect.

If I have one quibble, it is that the Christ and Antichrist theme (or its Old Testament equivalent) is a little too simplistic, given too much emphasis, and submerges a plot that could easily raise the themes to a more nuanced and uplifting worldview. But don’t let that put you off going to see it. This is a towering adventure not to be missed!

Reviewed on: 05 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:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****

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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