Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
While IMDB classes There Will Be Blood as a drama it very much had the feel of a Western to me and as you all know that spells disaster for me. Add to that Daniel Day-Lewis as the protagonist and the film basically became a write off in my opinion. I’m by no stretch of the imagination a fan of Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s often lauded as one of the great actors of Hollywood, largely due to his ability to completely lose himself in any character he deigns to portray, but I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Indeed I saw a lot of echoes (or should I say foreshadowings as this film predates his latest Oscar-winning performance in Lincoln, 2012, Steven Spielberg) of Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln in the character of Plainview. And I wasn’t overly enamoured of either performance. “The notoriously selective and methodical Daniel Day-Lewis gives an indelible performance as antihero Daniel Plainview – who turns nature’s resources into his own bounty, regardless of the cost to him and the world.” (909, Jonathan Penner, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
Given that the oil business is a highly competitive one, especially at the turn of the century during it’s infancy, not a lot really happens in the film. There are of course a couple of fairly awful accidents that serve the double purpose of being visually exciting and moving the story on. The first accident serves to establish Plainview and his character. Let me tell you it’s not a positive introduction in my view. While some may view Plainview’s adoption of the child orphaned as a result of the accident as a noble act, one undertaken out of a sense of guilt at having been the foreman/owner of the mine at the time I see it completely differently. He does not adopt that child out of the goodness of his heart but rather as a calculated move. He doesn’t see this child as the vulnerable thing it is but rather a tool to use to aid his own agenda.
I suppose you could argue that my view is somewhat of a strong one in light of Plainview’s reaction to the second accident and I do believe that by that point he will have formed some attachment to poor HW. However once the extent of the damage to HW becomes obvious he is quickly shipped off. And while it is for his best, as he learns to live with the ramifications of the accident, when he returns Plainview has little time for him.
Like I said not very much happens although I suppose you could argue that the film is less about any narrative but rather the decline of Plainview. And yet he doesn’t seem to be an overly greedy person. He is definitely a master at manipulating people to get them to part with things at a much reduced cost with no promise of any profit but it’s only at the tail end of the film do you see any sort of material wealth that Plainview has amassed over the years.
I’m going to confess that it did take me a while to work out that Paul Dano was playing twins although both performances were, as usual, filled with a quiet power that I’ve come to expect from Dano.
Penner says that “There Will Be Blood, his excoriating study of greed – and the both constructive and destructive powers of competitiveness and ambition – is a stunning achievement by the still-young writer-director.” (909) And yet the only bit of the film that really captured any of my attention was the few scenes involving ASL (American Sign Language) as that particular means of communication absolutely fascinates me. Aside from that I found the film somewhat anticlimactic and overly drawn out – to the point that I don’t think I could actually tell you what happened at the end of the film is you asked me to!