Ken's Review: There Will Be Blood - An Instant Classic
by Ken Evans
January 5, 2008
Going into this film I had no idea what to expect. Even in the weeks leading up to watching There Will Be Blood, people would ask me what it was about. I would answer, "It's about an oil driller in Texas around the turn-of-the-century." Not much of a description but I didn't have much to tell them and frankly I didn't know much beyond that. The trailer doesn't tell much of the story, although it paints a clear picture of Daniel Day-Lewis playing a complex, interesting character. Besides hearing all of the hype and wanting to see Daniel Day-Lewis, I didn't think it looked like a very entertaining story. I'll admit, after seeing this 158-minute film during a midnight showing, that it was extremely interesting and I was beyond impressed.
There Will Be Blood is the story of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an oil tycoon, during the late 1800's to early 1900's. Plainview starts as a lowly silver miner in a lone shaft in the middle of nowhere. While mining he stumbles upon oil and realizing the potential for profit begins to develop the shaft. During the process of drawing the oil out, one of Plainview's employees dies leaving a son behind. Jumping year's later, Plainview now has numerous producing oil wells across the state as well as having adopted the dead employee's son, whom he named H.W. Plainview (Dillon Freasier). While traveling, Daniel Plainview is approached by Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) with a business proposition. Sunday knows of a location where oil is coming out of the ground and wants to sell the information to Plainview. Plainview pays him and starts down a dangerous road that changes who he is and affects everyone around him.
This film is one gigantic character study of Daniel Day-Lewis's character, Daniel Plainview. Everything else, such as the oil drilling, his brother, the father-son relationship and the struggle with the "Church of the Third Revelation," all make up the framework with which we can further understand Daniel Plainview. If you take out Plainview's character, then you are left with a very simple story and no depth. Don't make the mistake of focusing on the circumstances instead of the character. Plainview is a very deep and complex character who exhibits the full range of emotions throughout the film. Everything that happens is because of him and everything points back to him. He is not just the main character of the movie, he is the movie.
That takes me to the actor, Daniel Day-Lewis. Ever since I watched him play Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in Gangs of New York, I wanted more. Even though it's not the same character, I got my wish. This is one hundred fifty-eight minutes of pure Daniel Day-Lewis splendor. His performance was riveting and flawless. He can portray each emotion honestly while at the same time emoting an overwhelming sense of purpose and intensity. His is my favorite performance of the year. I will be extremely disappointed if he doesn't win an Oscar for best actor, as I'm positive he will be nominated.
I have to mention Paul Dano and his performance as well. I'm very excited to see him develop as an actor after seeing him in Little Miss Sunshine and now There Will Be Blood. He plays his part very solidly, and the sections where he turns from overly calm to overly intense are amazing. He does extremely well in the supporting character role he plays, and is a perfect compliment to Daniel Day-Lewis' character.
Paul Thomas Anderson has outdone himself this time. I am a fan of his directing, although not a fanatic. I liked Magnolia and loved Punch Drunk Love, but with There Will Be Blood he has broken out of his shell. He put aside the quirky almost fantastical feeling that you get from his last two films and told a solid, very real story. PTA is a solid storyteller and puts together a very real experience that you don't see in many films anymore. Nothing in the film seems like it was rehearsed, the places all look so real, the emotions don't seem forced. He has made what might be the crowning achievement of his career. I say that not because I don't think he could make another great film, but topping There Will Be Blood doesn't seem possible.
Overall, this will definitely end up in my favorite films of the year. It is a masterful creation by PTA with an equally great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. The more I think about it, the more I really enjoyed it and would like to see it again. It is a long film but doesn't feel like it, and the payoff is worth the time sitting in the theater. This is one movie you will want to catch in the theater before it leaves. There Will Be Blood is an instant classic.