Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano & Ciaran Hinds.
Fantastic! This is a completely gripping drama about greed and corruption featuring a masterful performance by Daniel Day Lewis and deserving of all the critical acclaim it has recieved.
There Will Be Blood is a film that has it's look and it's thematic heart rooted firmly in cinema's Golden Age. It shares and studies themes of classic films like Citizen Kane and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre as we follow the career of, opportunistic, and greedy oilman Daniel Plainview as he pursues wealth at whatever cost.
Daniel Day Lewis delivers another excellent performance as Plainview, a silver-tongued businessman with a heart darker than Day-Lewis' Bill the Butcher (Scorsese's Gangs of New York). Lewis gives Plainview an immense physical presence all swagger and intimidation while chewing on the rich script and spitting out lines with charm and venom. He is part John Huston, part Orson Welles and still feels like the most originl, memorable character that we'll see on screen this year.
So good is Day-Lewis' performance, it is hard to imagine anyone else in the cast being able to share the same breath but we are lucky to find Plainview's main antagonist in the film to be similarly well-cast. This antagonist is young Eli Sunday, a local priest, played by Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine). Sunday is a character with similar desires to Plainview. Like Plainview he desires to be the most important person in his town, seeing himself as superior to everyone else. While Plainview uses his power and wealth as an oilman to impress and intimidate, Sunday uses his religion. Dano is very impressive in this film. In 'Little Miss Sunshine', his character was near mute, here he is a born talker delivering his sermon's with as much charm and manipulation as Plainview can muster yet without Plainview's physical presence, Sunday is more weasel-like. Manipulating the townsfolk under the guise of salvation to maintain his influence and undermine that which Plainview has built through promise of wealth.
The themes therefore are that capitalism and religion can both be corrupting influences when in competition and if that is true then the ending of the film seems to suggest that one will ulimately defeat the other with bloodshed in it's wake but is unlikely to fulfill anyone.
Of course this isn't a film that succeeds solely on its lead actors. The cinematography is impressive with stark landscapes showing the harshness of the environment and the depiction of the oilfields themselves and the dark dangers within both impressive and unsettling. Adding to tension building between Plainview and Sunday is a chilling score. The film begins in harsh, shrill tones as we witness the dangers and rewards of mining in an opening 20 minutes that is free of dialogue so the score sets the tone effectively while raising the tension in later scenes as confrontations occur.
Ultimately this is a film made with skill on the behalf of all those involved and it will hold up to the test of time and will, deservedly, join the ranks of cinema classics.