This is a film directed by the acclaimed auteur, Paul Thomas Anderson, and it is based on the titular novel by Upton Sinclair. There Will Be Blood is an exceptional character study, a commentary on the nature of human, and more specifically American, ambition, and a great piece of historical fiction. The film casts Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Daniel Plainview, an oilman by his own admission and one of the first Americans who initiated the oil drilling industry that would later conquer the whole world. Day-Lewis creates a fascinating character who dominates the screen from the beginning until the end of the movie's runtime with his peculiar accent, quirky expression, and commanding persona. Daniel's antagonist in the movie is Eli, a Christian pastor who cuts a deal with Plainview to start the drilling in his family's land. The two characters will clash in the course of the movie and they will have an unforgettable showdown sequence in the end. Oil serves as a symbol of blood in the movie's universe, hence the title.
Daniel cannot trust other people and he has trouble connecting with them. He says: "There are times when I look at people and see nothing worth liking". He also admits that he hates seeing other people succeeding in their business. Daniel Plainview is pure American ambition plain and simple. He knows how to manipulate others and take advantage of them. When an unknown individual claiming to be his lost brother appears, Daniel's inherent mistrust becomes all the more evident. Paul Thomas Anderson focuses on the relationship between Daniel and his adopted son H. W. Plainview. In the beginning, the director implies that Daniel uses H. W. to easier convince other people to buy their land. It is always better to appear as a family man who cares for his 10-year-old son and wants only the best for him. It is all about appearances and the initials H. W. perhaps stand for "Human Worker". Nevertheless, as the story unfolds we watch Daniel expressing something that resembles true emotion for his adopted son and the audience begins to question the true nature of their relationship. When an accident occurs in the drilling site and H. W. loses his hearing, Daniel's true feelings come forward.
The tension between Daniel and Eli is palpable from their first meeting and escalates as the plot unravels. Eli is the son of Abel, the landowner, and twin brother of the young man who initially notified Daniel about the existence of oil in their family land. Eli is not an especially likable character as he seems to be equally cunning and manipulative as Daniel is. In his sermons, he claims to be the personification of the Spirit and a healer of any kind of physical or psychological pain. Daniel instantly feels aversion to Eli as he has no faith in God as well as anything or anyone above himself. In the monumental ending scene, he will force Eli to recite those words: "I am a false prophet and God is nothing but a superstition".
The battle for power between those two great characters is the main plot device that advances the story. It is essentially a battle for America's soul: God vs. Money. Nevertheless, the main character is Daniel and there is hardly a single shot in the film where he is not present. The editing of There Will Be Blood is truly exceptional with relatively lengthy shots and close-ups to the protagonists' faces where the audience can read the strife for power in their eyes and facial expressions. Except for Daniel Day-Lewis, all the members of the cast deliver memorable performances such as Paul Dano's who plays both Paul and Eli Sunday. This is a film that many will find boring as the story picks up speed after the 3/4ds of the movie's runtime. The audience should be patient and observe every single detail on the screen to be able to assess this movie as a whole. The film offers some valuable insights into human nature, family relationships, and the nature of wealth as well as its effect on the people.
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