There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood (2007) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

“I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.”

★★★★☆

There Will Be Blood is loosely based on Oil!, Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel about a corrupt oil family. It is an impeccably shot film with some fine acting by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. I can appreciate this film for being well-made, but much of the plot is a long, boring, sweep through the desert and to me it does not really stand the test of time. Certain critics have surmised that There Will Be Blood is a meditation on the nature of American greed, but it seems to me more fitting to call this picture as an intense character study of a deeply flawed man. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, though it ultimately lost to the far superior film, No Country For Old Men. Daniel Day-Lewis won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actor that year (one of his three Academy Awards). Anderson dedicated There Will Be Blood to Robert Altman who died during editing.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a ruthless, sweaty, nasty, conceited, whiskey-drinking prospective oil baron hell-bent on getting rich no matter who he snubs or the cost. The character is reminiscent of Day-Lewis’s lead in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York in 2002. Plainview intends to find oil during the California oil boom, and when one of his employees dies in an accident, Plainview adopts the man’s son only so he can present himself as a family man. The boy becomes little more than a prop for Plainview, and when the boy goes deaf in an oil accident, Plainview essentially discards him.

Plainview meets Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) who lures him out to his property in order to secure money for his small community church (or perhaps his twin brother’s church) the Church of the Third Revelation. His twin brother Eli is also played by Paul Dano, but their relationship is left somewhat ambiguous –are they the same person? Plainview is eventually coerced into repenting at the church, and there is also an interesting interlude where a man claiming to be Plainview’s step-brother arrives. However, when he is revealed to be an imposter Plainview murders the man.

In the end, Plainview’s adopted (now) adult son arrives at Plainvew’s mansion, but Plainview reveals him to be nothing more than an orphan, but his adopted son says he’s glad not to be related to Plainview before departing. Then Eli shows up hoping to strike a deal with Plainview at his personal bowling alley in his mansion, but Plainview exacts vengeance on Eli. He beats Eli to death with a bowling pin. When his butler walks in Plainview utters, “I’m finished.”

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