There Will Be Blood (2007)
Reviewed on 2008 April 14
This is based on Upton Sinclair’s book Oil! and given the epic treatment by writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson. Punch Drunk Love didn’t really do it for me, but this kept me watching for all 158 minutes.
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a turn-of-the-century silver miner that discovers oil one day. In a sequence that shows how adaptable he is when it comes to making a buck, he comes back with the proper equipment and starts mining away. This part is remarkable, by the way — not a word of spoken dialogue, just Jonny Greenwood’s creepy, Shining-like score screeching away.
We see Plainview is prosperous, showing up at a meeting in a suit and with his small son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) in tow. He seems very polite and refined, but as slick as the stuff he mines, as he explains to some townspeople the nature of his business. He’s a smooth talker and he gets the attention of a young man named Paul Sunday (Paul Dano, in a dual role as Paul and Eli Sunday). Paul explains there’s oil on his family ranch in California, and he’d like Plainview to be the one to mine it (for a fair price of course). Plainview travels to the ranch and meets the rest of the clan, including Eli, a slimy fundamentalist preacher that wants a fat chunk of oil money for his Church of the Third Revelation. The rest of the film is a battle between Plainview and Eli, with the rest of Plainview’s struggles simmering away in the background.
I know some people loathe the unusual score, but I thought it added a nice, sinister touch to the whole thing. I’m also done with the whole eeeeeevil Christian thing, because it’s just so played out, but it didn’t bore or offend me here, because these people were such freaks that they moved into the realm of entertaining caricature. Some of these people were what you’d get if you cross-bred the Waltons with some FLDS goons. Besides, with a few exceptions, nobody was exactly a Boy Scout in this thing.
Four chocolate morsels. I think some years the Academy has a no-brainer for Best Picture; this time they had to choose between this bad boy and No Country for Old Men.