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There Will Be Blood (2008)


When Ambition Meets Faith.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 158 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


My feelings about There Will Be Blood are somewhat conflicted. It is, undeniably, a good film, maybe even great. And I know that some see it as a classic, waxing poetic about symbolism and all. I’m an English major—believe me, I know good metaphor when I see it, and this film definitely delivers on many levels. Will everyone see it as a classic? No—and while I do believe it’s full of instant cinematic canon moments, as a whole, it’s somewhat overrated and, honestly, too darn long.

There Will Be Blood follows the story of oil prospector Daniel Plainview’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) unquenchable ambition. In the early1900s, Daniel and his young son H.W., acting on a tip from a man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano), scout out the Sunday family ranch and its surrounding areas in the poor little California town of Little Boston, promising its residents schools, church improvements, and lots of money. The town turns out to be a great oil find, but the discovery of the oil starts a chain of events that lead a successful and ambitious man down an inevitably dark path.

This is a departure for director Paul Thomas Anderson, known for complex, layered stories with a myriad of characters and subplots (Magnolia, Boogie Nights), but he handles the tight focus on Daniel Plainview beautifully. Daniel Day-Lewis IS this movie. Take away the love it or hate it score (it’s jarring, but in its own way, it almost feels like it’s a character itself) and the long stretches of dialogue-free footage (again, the praise for these scenes reeks of movie snobbery to me—five minutes is good, twenty minutes is puffed-up filler), and what you’re left with is a film that showcases the downward descent of one man. Lewis has the impossible task of humanizing a character almost inhuman in his coldness and aversion to people, yet he manages to do it; we can understand his hatred of almost everyone he meets—for example, “Man of God” Eli Sunday (Dano) turns out to be a greedy, two-faced preacher, and his climactic scenes with Daniel leave us—or me anyway—firmly on the side of the character whose actions should be deemed “evil.” There Will Be Blood isn’t quite the epic masterpiece it’s touted as, but there’s no denying that Day-Lewis deserved every accolade he received for his performance, and if you go in knowing your patience may be tested and the music might scare you, this is a film for fans of truly exquisite acting.

It's Got: One of the most memorable characters in American cinema, oil, a creepy preacher.

It Needs: For fans to read Oil, to go back and do some editing.

DVD Extras Two Featurettes: “15 Minutes - Pics, Research, Etc.” and “The Story of Petroleum”; two Deleted Scenes; “Dailies Gone Wild” (an extended scene); Trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10


The film itself is lacking in some areas, but Daniel Day-Lewis’s masterful performance is plenty of reason to watch this story of one oilman’s struggle and ambition.