"One night I'm gonna come to you, inside of your house, wherever you're sleeping, and I'm gonna cut your throat."
The film opens to the foreboding sound of layered strings, like a swarm of locusts approaching. It is 1898, and Daniel Plainview is prospecting for gold. He is alone and weary. This is his life's work. This is how he will support himself and his family. Plainview dynamites the mine and in the process breaks his leg. Straight away we know how dangerous this type of work was, what it meant to the men involved in it, and the consequences. Throughout the film, success is constantly contrasted with tragedy and failure.
Jumping forward 3 years, Daniel Plainview's search for gold has led him to oil, a much more lucrative commodity, and he has become a very sucessful man. He approaches a small town and outlines his plans for prosperity, offering remuneration and rejuvenation. The naive townsfolk are soon drawn in, but you get the impression that the only one who will really benefit is Plainview.
Based on Oil! by Upton Sinclair, There Will Be Blood deals with Plainview's struggle to cope with his adopted son, potential (financial) claims against him, and the wrath of young preacher Eli Sunday. Eli's brother Paul had earlier in the film alerted Plainview to the presence of oil on his parents land, and been handsomely rewarded for it. Eli can see Plainview's true intentions, and seeks to expose him for it unless Plainview accepts his role within the congregation. This goes against Plainviews scheme but he may have no choice if he wants to succeed.
This is role immersion and intensity like you have never seen before. The character of Daniel Plainview, with Daniel Day-Lewis living and breathing the role, reminded me of his portrayal of Butcher Bill in Gangs of New York. That seething, brooding malevolent force waiting to erupt and wreak havoc. Day-Lewis owns the screen, and convinces so much in this role that it seems like its the only one he's ever played, and was destined to play. You truly believe him as Plainview. I had visions of Day-Lewis on set never leaving character, responding to gaffers and best boys in the deep tones of Plainview's English/American accent. A little like Jack Palance in his prime, but with more underlying menace.
No one else was in contention for the Best Actor Oscar this year in my opinion. Day-Lewis gives Plainview a little ambiguity. Yes, he is cold and out for himself, but he's also human, albeit a far more focussed and intelligent one than those around him. Ultimately he never allows anyone to get close to him, such is his desire for oil and the trappings it brings. Paul Dano, as preacher Eli Sunday, has a whale of a time in the role, and in a scene reminiscent of Larry David's antics in Curb Your Enthusiasm, baptises a reluctant Plainview into his congregation. Plainview's face, almost smirking whilst renouncing his sins and making a terrible admission, is a picture.
I realise I've said very little about Paul Thomas Anderson so far. One of my favourite directors, his rich style comes through so well in such gems as Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia and Boogie Nights, and don't get me wrong, There Will Be Blood is well directed, but its Daniel Day-Lewis's film all the way.
|Title||There Will Be Blood|
|Director||Paul Thomas Anderson|