There Will Be Blood

posted February 04, 2008 12:11:47 PM CST | 3 comments

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Paul Thomas Anderson left us in 2002 with Punch-Drunk Love, a film notable for reminiscing about Jerry Lewis, utilizing Adam Sandlerís familiar shy/explosive persona to dramatic effect, and the most volatile use of the phrase ďShut up,Ē in cinematic history. Itís a good film, but nowhere near as good as Boogie Nights or Magnolia. However, all these films feature a gimmick of some sort. The films are well made if not in need of an editor and though they may employ falling frogs or random piano, theyíre products of a man who knows what he wants and is always conscious of his choices.

Now in 2007 he returns to us with his most mature film to date: There Will Be Blood. Thereís no gimmick to be found. Thereís lunacy, greed, jealousy, hatred, zealotry, and pride, but no gimmick. The film is a character study of H.R. Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an oil man who has earned his wealth but is pure business in his desire to rape the land, cheat the owners, and keep as much of the oil to himself all while pretending heís a man of the people.

From the trailers, I expected the story to turn on the conflict between Plainview and a young local minister named Eli (Paul Dano), who is just as prideful but deals in evangelical religion rather than oil. But Eliís religious zealotry is only an element of Plainviewís story (albeit an element of tremendous thematic importance). The conflict is all about Plainviewís character and how he sucks the blood of the Earth for sustenance but when that well runs dry, he has built nothing of importance and is left bitter. Of course, itís not as simplistic as ďMoney canít buy happiness,Ē and thatís due not only to Andersonís beautifully constructed script, but Day-Lewisí unsurprisingly phenomenal performance. Itís just not fair to other actors that Day-Lewis exists because no matter how good they are, heís going to be better. Itís just lucky for them that he only makes a movie every few years.

There are only two major problems with Blood: the first is that as the oil begins to run dry, so does the filmís energy. While I have no doubt this is intentional, itís still difficult to come off that rush. The second is that the film requires a second viewing to really understand is depth. Itís a dense work and while thereís nothing wrong with that, itís a little unfair that you have to see it again to understand the themes and ideas presented. But with Andersonís most confident work and Day-Lewisí mesmerizing performance, a second viewing is more a privilege than a chore.

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