Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciarán Hinds
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Running Time: 158 mins
There Will Be Blood is an American film about a businessman at the turn of the 20th Century who takes a monopoly of the oil production in Southern California in a joint business venture with his son and watches his wealth and oil empire expand.
What this film really shows is the power of storytelling. It’s not a big-budget blockbuster with special effects, twists or gimmicks throughout to attract viewers, it’s just the story of a man’s life during the oil boom in California at the turn of the century, and for that reason I believe that this film is the first real modern classic of the 21st Century.
When you watch this film, you’ve got to be wholly interested in the story and the characters. It’s not a case of having a tension-packed, unpredictable plot, which you see in most films nowadays, but harks back to the style of the historic classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age, having an incredibly simple and straight-talking premise that works its magic through its screenplay and performances.
One such performance is the central one by Daniel Day-Lewis. I’ve never been the greatest champion of his work, but it’s near impossible to admit that this performance is not mind-blowing. Taking on one of the most complex and intriguing character roles in the last few decades, he puts in a sterling performance showing the hypocritical, tyrannical, insane and terrifying oil baron that is Daniel Plainview.
Now, the story of Plainview is an absolutely enthralling one. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen for the whole film, as the major premise is just a telling of his life at the time. It starts with his initial ventures into acquiring the vast expanse of land that becomes his oil empire, and this period is not only intriguing from a historically contextual perspective, but also looking at how the ambition of Plainview, and his son, develops as his success begins to grow.
However, it’s the latter part of the story that really gets you into the character. After taking his empire to its peak, Plainview undergoes a petrifying and deeply disturbing transformation after a major change in his life. Prior to this, we see him as a strange but interesting balance between a family man and a businessman, whereas afterwards, he becomes this cold-blooded and brutal person who is not only even more intriguing to look at, but also absolutely terrifying.
One other major point about why this film is so good is that it’s presented in such a simple way. Not only is it the premise and screenplay that are simple, but also the cinematography, dialogue and pacing are all very slow but fluid, calm but enticing at the same time, and it really made me think of some of the westerns that were so prominent in the 1960s, like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid etc.
Anyway, overall, this gets an 8.7, because it is an incredibly intriguing character study with a hugely refreshing approach to its story that really makes it fantastic to watch.