Upon reading the synopsis to this movie, I can’t say I was very interested in it. I mean, it’s basically a film about a family oil drilling business, which could not sound more tedious. I was wrong. Quite the opposite, actually: it was incredibly dramatic.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood focuses primarily on Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an oil-rich businessman who has recently moved to California to continue his work as an oil prospector there. His son joins him for the ride in order to present his business as family-orientated and trustworthy, but the Plainviews could not be further from either of those things. The truth is that Daniel, in brief, cons honest families into selling him their land for very little money until one day he messes with the wrong person. A preacher known as Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) begins to suspect that the Plainviews are up to no good and the feud between the pair of them starts to threaten both of their lives.
Nominated for 8 Academy Awards and 9 BAFTAs, the praise for this film was extremely strong on release. However, I’m really not sure how this didn’t get more praise for its score. After all those awards nominations, not a single one of them was for the film’s music. The truth is, the instrumental soundtrack is an anxiety bomb – it’s so tense and sets a sinister tone from the very first second. Plus, there’s no dialogue whatsoever for the opening 14 minutes of the film. A prime example of “show, don’t tell”. It sometimes felt like a silent movie in that respect, and the fact that not a single one of these recognitions went to the score is more criminal than Daniel Plainview himself.
On top of that, the storytelling and world-building is absolutely phenomenal here from Paul Thomas Anderson. Everything from the scenery and the framing to the script and the costuming is completely flawless. Not only is it exceptional, but it’s extremely impressive for a $25 million budget.
Daniel Day-Lewis is – no surprise – insanely good as the tricky, secretly nuts Plainview. This is a rare occasion where the Oscars got it right for once (spoilers: he won the award for Best Actor for this movie), and without him, it would be far less enthralling a watch. Paul Dano is as creepy as ever too – just brilliant as the antagonist and my respect for him grows more with every film I see him in.
Honestly my only issue with this film is the fact that my attention span sucks. Were it pacier and perhaps a little shorter, it’d be the perfect movie for me. Alas, there are a lot of sequences that simply involve men talking in rooms, and that’s just not always interesting unfortunately. However, the theme of greed corrupting every facet of human civilisation is strong in this one.
As a little side note, I just wanted to point out how great the movie poster is for I Will Be Blood. (See above.) Though it won’t make much sense before you’ve seen it, it’s completely fitting and just bloody brilliant once you understand the context behind it. Definitely one for the “Best Movie Posters” list.
There Will Be Blood is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.
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Costume & Set Design:
Overall Rating: ½