When first hearing about the project There Will Be Blood, there were two names attached to it that equaled instant success: Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis. Two power house eccentric's working together is definitely a recipe for something exciting. It surprises me that the two haven't worked together yet, but here we are in an intense year of dark films with one of (if not) the best film of the year. But more about the match-up later, on to the film itself.
When taking head of the menacing themes of Power and Greed, there is no better place than the early 20th century oil boom. There Will Be Blood shows the rise and rise and the pinnacle of Daniel Plainview. He's an oil man, as he likes to put it many times over. His business man attitude and his "family man" approach to buying up land and drilling for oil to make him and the locals money is impeccable. His success leads him to a lead in a town called Little Boston somewhere in California. His lead was from a young man who sends him to the Sunday Ranch. He meets a young preacher, Eli Sunday, and convinces the town that the oil rig is just what the town needs to make it flourish. In the process, Plainview reels out of control isolating his son, H.W. and any other human contact unless it's about business. It's all about the oil and that leads to his tragic flaw of greed.
Sounds pretty basic, right? It is in a sense that it's your classic story of a power hungry individual hell bent on God status. However, what P.T. Anderson brings here is an unflinching view into the psyche, soul and world of Daniel Plainview. And what Daniel Day Lewis brings to the character is a charged, passionate performance. It's a harrowing journey thats sometimes hard to watch and all the time gripping and impressive. The amount of emotion and energy DDL brings to any character in his sprawling, yet sparse career is impressive. He immerses himself fully into Plainview so much so that you see nothing but Daniel Plainview. His convincing acting is the core to why There Will Be Blood is so great.
This alone does not carry the film. The supporting cast, especially Paul Dano as the young "prophet preacher" Eli Sunday is an impassioned performance all at once tragic and sometimes comical. It shows the weaknesses of his youth and the sheer power that he gains as being seen as a prophet. Greed runs through his veins just as much as it does through Plainview's and their confrontations are the most intense throughout the film. Another standout performance is by newcomer and youngin' Dillon Freasier who plays H.W. Plainview, the young cherub son and "business partner" of Daniel's. Their relationship changes dramatically through the events of the entire film making it one of those dynamic points to the film. It stands out and stays with you throughout the movie even when H.W. is not on the screen.
P.T. Anderson nails the rest of the film with brilliant cinematography care of Robert Elswit (who also worked on Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and other various films) hits home with fluid cameras, intense mood canges with lighting and other effects that catch the eye. To take care of the soundtrack is Radiohead vet Johnny Greenwood. The score is just as intense as the visuals making the overall experience gripping and solidifying the images on the screen. Hair raising intense strings and percussion syncopate with what the action of the film is portraying showing the harsh landscapes of early oil drilling.
Overall, There Will Be Blood will be the best dramatic film you can see this year. I have yet to see some other top contenders for the prize, but overall, the experience P.T. Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis bring to the table is gold. Black gold, maybe, but gold nonetheless.