In the months leading up to the release of “There Will Be Blood” (2007), the online film community was buzzing with controversy. Fans of director Paul Thomas Anderson had major concerns: Would there be blood? How much blood would there be? And what if there wasn’t any? Reputations were on the line.
According to conventional wisdom, P.T. Anderson was a director who delivered the goods. “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” were evidence of a genius auteur in the making.
But there were clear reasons for concern. Based loosely on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel “Oil,” the title of Anderson’s new picture was clearly allegorical. Would he really entice viewers with the promise of blood, only to deliver oil in spades?
The answer is unequivocally, “no.” The film delivers on all fronts. Anderson has made his best film yet, a tale which mixes timeless themes with stylized Americana.
His directing prowess is on display in every shot, but especially in the first twenty minutes of the film. These scenes have no dialogue, but the striking images and musical score let viewers know they are in for a real treat.
The score is courtesy of Johnny Greenwood, guitar player for rock band Radiohead. The compositions are masterful, and a major asset to a film brimming with assets.
Most notable is Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of tycoon Daniel Plainview. It’s a good thing he won the Oscar for Best Actor at the recent Academy Awards ceremony, because anything less would have been downright criminal. This is a towering, epic performance with parallels to Orson Welles’ Charles Foster Kane. You will not see better acting in any film this year. Fans of director John Huston will also find plenty to enjoy, as Day-Lewis’ vocal inflections are a memorable homage to the late director and his distinctive pattern of speech.
Plainview’s determination for wealth and hate for humanity are the engine which drive this story forward. His main competition comes in the form of a frontier preacher and false prophet, played with great zeal by the young Paul Dano. Their clash of wills leads to a bizarre and violent confrontation in a bowling alley, the scene in which the film ultimately makes good on its title. While many critics feel that this scene is “over the top” or perhaps a contrived addendum of sorts, it brings a needed resolution to the arcs of both main characters.
See for yourself, and you will not be disappointed. Like “No Country For Old Men,” this is a literate film with the breadth and depth to look meaningfully at greed and evil in America.
“There Will Be Blood” is a film that delivers on its promises. It is surely one of the ten best films of the year.